Shortly after finishing recording the album Here Come the Girls, London Souls guitarist Tash Neal was back in New York City and in a cab heading home after a quiet night. Then a drag-racing car smashed into his vehicle and Neal was almost killed. He had brain surgery and a piece of his skull removed, then was placed in a medically induced coma for a week, his friends and family warned that Neal’s effusive personality and prodigious musical skills might be gone when he awoke. The first time he picked up a guitar again, everyone began to think he might just be okay.
"I had been awake three days when I gestured toward the guitar my dad had brought in,” recalls Neal, 29. “I had already recognized people so it was clear I was not severely brain damaged, which was the likely diagnosis. I played B, E, G lying down and it was, like, ‘This feels like me.’ It was really comforting…and I had a more positive outlook. I was missing half my skull. I hadn’t walked yet, but I felt like I was still me.”
Here Come the Girls makes clear why Neal is a favorite of Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks and other guitar luminaries. He and drummer Chris St. Hilaire stake out new ground for a rock duo, mostly avoiding the minimalist blues of the White Stripes or Black Keys, in favor of sweet melodies, hard grooving and harmonious singing and playing that create a full, swinging sound. Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno produced Here Come the Girls and adds the occasional bass line or second guitar, but the focus is on the core duo.
“This album has the live energy that we play with,” says Neal. “ I react to Chris and he reacts to me and we just go. I love playing as a duo because it challenges me and I want to play as much guitar as I can. I got a second chance at life and I’m not going to dumb myself down.”
Photo by Justin Borucki