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Attorney refuses to let his musical talent just wither.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

Sitting near a window in a downtown cafe, Eugene musician Dan Neal waved hello to several lawyers walking by out on Willamette Street.

"That's the No. 1 marijuana lawyer in town," Neal said, nodding his head at a burly man walking by. In the three or so years that Neal has been back in the music business after building a career as a lawyer, he's gotten used to living in two worlds.

With his scaled-back law practice, he stays in contact with local barristers. With his revved up music hobby, the 54-year-old rubs elbows with Eugene's music elite - such as Deb Cleveland, who will sing backup during his CD release show at the Shedd on Saturday.

Just as he's roughed up his image, sporting longer hair and fewer neckties, to fit better in the music world, he's brought his experiences as a lawyer into his material.

At the CD release for Neal's new project, "Party of One," you'll hear his original material from two albums and some unrecorded surprises, such as a song about talking to his son about sex.

Neal grew up in the coastal town of Bandon, where he played in both school and independent bands. After doing the weekend warrior thing with his high school friends, playing for crowds of thousands as an opening act, Neal decided college was the path for him.

College life didn't jibe well with band life, so Neal put the music aside and enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he completed his undergraduate and law degrees. He started his own practice in 1978.

Music was never far from his mind, and he still played around on his guitar. He gigged with the Emerald City Rockets in the '90s, recording a CD with that band. But he always wanted to record his own songs.

Neal said a friend from Bandon - Gary White, who lives in Los Angeles and works as a producer and sound mixer - had a lot to do with why Neal took the leap into a solo recording career.

In 2005, a year Neal dedicated to seeing where music would take him, he wrapped up pending legal cases and didn't take on new ones.

"I stuck with my plan to see how it felt, and how it felt was good," he said.

In the past, he said his big cases occupied the part of his mind he needed for creative thought. When he shifted his law practice toward public defense, he had more mental space for music.

Neal said the commercial law he had practiced previously was like being a specialist in the ongoing care of a patient. Public defense is more like being an emergency room doctor, he explained.

As he did with "When the Big Picture Fades," he recorded "Party of One" in Los Angeles, with White as producer and Lucinda Williams' rhythm section as session players. He did additional touch-ups and mixing at Gung Ho Studios here in Eu- gene.

The biggest difference between the two works is that the new one has fewer silly songs, Neal said. He maintains a sense of humor and hope, but has refined his songwriting craft.

"I'm still into fun and games and jokes and having a good time," Neal said. "I think it's a useful collection of thoughts. ... In a world where there are so many negative messages, it's hard sometimes to will yourself to grab on to something positive.

`If music can help you do that, then I think it's a very good thing."


Dan Neal

What: Singer-songwriter with full band

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jaqua Concert Hall, the Shedd, 285 E. Broadway

Tickets: $15 to $25

On the Web: Find song samples and a link to a 2004 Register-Guard story about Neal at www /ticketfiles
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 20, 2007
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