Cindy Cashdollar grew up in Woodstock. It’s an old local name. Her great-uncle Albert Cashdollar was town supervisor, 1932-1943, and the family ran Locust Grove Dairy.
She played Dobro with everyone in town during the 1970s and 80s, and we all watched, awestruck, as her talent swiftly grew, along with the demand for her sublime musical touch. After touring with the John Herald Band, her restless musical quest took her to Nashville in 1992 and then, a few months later to Austin, where she expanded her instrumental prowess to steel and lap steel guitars and performed on the road with the Western Swing band Asleep at the Wheel for more than eight years. Afterward, the names of those who sought her out and hired her to add fire and sweetness to their music are lifted out of the record books: Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Levon Helm, Dave Alvin, Rod Stewart, Albert Lee, Marcia Ball, Jorma Kaukonen, Leon Redbone, BeauSoleil, Daniel Lanois, Redd Volkaert, Peter Rowan…and on and on. A quintessential sideperson, she’s done work with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton and The Dixie Chicks, won five Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame in 2011 (the first female to be inducted), and The Texas Music Hall Of Fame in 2012.
About a year ago, she moved back home…
So what the hell are you doing here?
It’s so nice that I have not asked myself that since I moved back. It’s a place that you miss. When I moved to Nashville in 1992, I said what the hell am I doing here? And six months later when I moved to Austin to work with Asleep at the Wheel, there were many times I asked myself, what the hell are you doing here? But not since I moved back here.
I missed it.
Austin was getting very overcrowded, very expensive. The cool factor, the music venues, the vintage music stores, were leaving there, disappearing…Austin Vintage Guitar, some great breakfast taco trailers that I lived on every morning, gone. Priced out and knocked down. Austin Vintage guitar, the Heart of Texas Music, a wonderful amplifier repair shop, vintage clothing store it was all in a little mall, completely obliterated to make room for condo, town hall, multi-use buildings. I saw a lot of changes there since 1992.
So it’s great to be back. It’s nice to go to the market and run into people you know. Go to the post office and say hi.
Part of you had wanted to come back here, but you were afraid that you couldn’t get the work.
Well, I did love Austin after I got over the initial shock of working with Asleep at the Wheel, just assimilating to everything new.
But, yes, there was a fear of me not getting as much work here. Even with all the growth in Austin, it is still very much a live music scene. So when I was not on the road, I had a lot of studio work there, and local gigs. I played a Wednesday night residency there with the same band for five years, Johnny Nicholas and Hell Bent, at the Saxon Pub. And played there with James Hand and a lot of different acts…and the Continental Club, I played there every Saturday with Red Volkaert, played Happy Hour there when I was in town.
The one thing about moving back to Woodstock, it’s not like that, it’s too small and it does not have the thriving music scene it once did. But there’s still incredible music happening here, and wonderful studios, I’m discovering. And there’s still an airport that’s easy to get to. It’s great, it’s just different, that’s all.
Who are you playing with these days?
Well, roadwise, I did a duo tour with (slide guitar master) Sonny Landreth about a month and a half ago, and we’re doing another one in the fall. And I’ve got some dates with Dave Alvin in August…I’m doing a guitar festival, Copper Mountain Colorado, going out there myself as a guest artist to sit in with John Jorgenson’s band, and a workshop. Locally, I’ve been playing with so many great people here, Amy Helm, Zach Djininkian, Happy Traum, John Sebastian…and there’s a show on April 20 at Levon’s Barn with Amy and Brandon Morrison and Lee Falco, local people, and with friends of mine from Austin I played with in a group called Texas Guitar Women — which is Marcia Ball, and Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King. So we’re merging it together and calling it the Woodstock Lone Stars.
And then there’s the April 16 benefit for the Woodstock School of Art with Jay Ungar, Molly Mason and Tony Trischka and others, the annual Swing and Shine, which was the very first gig I had when I moved back here last year.
And I’m doing my own CD, too. Slide Show, which came out long ago, had many different artists, and this will, too, maybe not as many. I think the only repeats are Sonny Landreth and Marcia Ball, who won’t be singing but playing piano. This one will have more original instrumentals and so far, most of the recording was done in Austin before I left. In Austin I recorded with the house band at Antone’s, the famous blues club, which I had been playing at on Monday nights. Omar Kent Dykes, of Omar and the Howlers, is doing a vocal, Derek O’Brien on guitar; Ray Benson (of Asleep at the Wheel) is on a track, and Johnny Nicholas and Hell Bent…that’s more a mixture of blues and, I hate to use the term, Americana. But it will be a variety of music I like to play on a variety of slide guitars.
So now I’m hoping to finish it up. I was on the road with Albert Lee all last summer, and the last track we recorded was with Albert Lee and the band. So now I gotta keep moving forward.
What’s the difference in the music being played in Austin these days and the music you find here, in New York?
I think Austin certainly has more, what I call the Honky Tonk scene, the Dale Watsons, Red Volkaert, playing music that would almost sound like a 1950s juke box. There just seems to be a lot more of what I would call vintage country music in Austin and blues, a lot more blues. But surprisingly, no bluegrass. I was surprised when I moved there that bluegrass was a nonexistent scene. I remember hearing and playing more bluegrass when I was here. But, you know, I think that’s the main difference.
But there are a lot more venues, so you are exposed to a wider variety of music there. I’m not saying that that music does not exist in this area, there a blues jam at the Falcon in Marlboro, and there’s the bluegrass you have at the Harmony on Thursdays…
I love playing with my brother Russell and the Lustre Kings, rockabilly and a mix of that stuff, cause it was all a hybrid, western country, rockabilly, swing, rock, it all kind of meshed together.
Did you have much of a background in that before you got to Texas?
Actually very little. I had just started dabbling on steel before I left. But what I heard at the Watering Troff before I left on those great Sunday afternoon Jamborees…that was great for country and bluegrass…there was that. And Western Swing, I’d hear the Dixie Doughboys play or Fiddle Fever. And a neighbor of mine gave me all his Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys records. So that was my so called background for Western Swing. Rockabilly, no, I hadn’t played any before I left here in 92.
Getting to Austin and working with Asleep at the Wheel for eight and a half years and other groups after that…got me more ensconced in that music.
How about approaching somebody else’s music, do you take much time to learn it?
If I can. Usually I’ll ask them if they feel comfortable sending me the tracks…I like to listen to the lyrics, see what the song is all about, or ask people, are you sending me a track that has all the instruments? Because I always think, how can I best blend with these other instruments, are they going to have a high guitar on it or a horn, or how I can complement what’s going on in that sense. Then I’ll listen to it to pick out what instrument I have in my arsenal to sound best with that certain song. So yeah, it’s nice to have the luxury to learn it beforehand and it also makes it faster, and cheaper, to overdub your part.
But there were lots of times in Austin when I’d get called, oh, we have a client, can you come by and throw some lap steel on there? And you’re walking into a situation where you haven’t heard the song, you don’t know the client. So that’s when I’d just load the car up with a bunch of different instruments, just in case.