Music on the Mend

After a car accident that left him in a coma, London Souls guitarist Tash Neal rocks on

January 10, 2013
The London Souls — Chris St. Hilaire, left, and Tash Neal, right — released sophomore album “Here Come the Girls” this week.
The London Souls — Chris St. Hilaire, left, and Tash Neal, right — released sophomore album “Here Come the Girls” this week.

Tash Neal couldn’t remember what had happened. He didn’t know why he was in the hospital or that he had recently awoken from a coma. He looked around the room and saw his father, whom he recognized, and his acoustic guitar, which looked familiar.

“I didn’t know what it was, so I just reached for it and I played three chords — E, A and G — and it felt right,” says Neal, the lead singer and guitarist for New York-based rock band the London Souls.

The fact that he could even pick up a guitar was a miracle.

On May 30, Neal had been taking a cab to his New York home when a BMW hit his taxi and sped away. Neal was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where he spent a week in a medically induced coma. Doctors performed multiple brain surgeries — including removing a chunk of his skull. They believed it would take up to a year before Neal could walk and talk normally again.

On Oct. 10 — less than five months after the crash — he was back on stage, playing a concert.

“It took three months to get the courage to see [the X-ray that showed] what was at stake, but my brain was pretty much mangled, crushed,” Neal says. “When I think about that, all I need to know is that I’m lucky.”

After he left the hospital, Neal picked up his guitar again, wondering if he still knew the words to London Souls’ songs. Fortunately, “it all came back pretty quickly.”

Now, nearly eight months after the accident, Neal is embarking on London Souls’ first tour since he was sidelined. This week, the retro-rock revivalist duo (also featuring Chris St. Hilaire on drums and vocals) released their second album, “Here Come the Girls” (recorded in January and February of 2012). The album traffics in sounds similar to Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes and the Black Keys: a melding of blues, soul and classic rock that bridges the gap between the 1960s and today.

Neal’s physical recovery is complete; he’s currently focusing on neurological rehab and being back on the road.

“Everything is getting better,” he says. But “I’m not doing cartwheels yet.

A Return to Normalcy

After the car accident, Tash Neal says, he felt “off for months” and has only recently begun writing songs again. “I wasn’t even listening to music or searching new music out,” he says. “There was too much going on.” The new London Souls songs Neal is working on don’t directly address the crash and his recovery, but Neal thinks it will come out naturally. “I’m not going to force it,” he says.

DC9, 1940 9th St. NW; Thu., 9 p.m., $10; 202-483-5000. (U Street)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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Marc Silver · January 10, 2013