Cindy Cashdollar is one of the best in business and constantly in demand for her slide prowess and intuitive musicianship. She has toured with the greats such as Dylan, Nelson, Parton and Morrison and worked in studio with countless more luminaries. She has a wonderful gift for making great musicians sound even greater, she is a true team player and very rarely steps out in the spot light. She also happens to be a life long fan of the weissenborn and regular plays her vintage 1927 original and is often requested to take it along to recording sessions as an ‘alternative sound’. She is currently busy working on her second solo album after nearly a 13 year hiatus. So it was my great pleasure to talk to this lovely lady about all things slide and get to the bottom of a few intriguing stories…
Moving onto your weissenborn experiences. Are you ever in amazement in how a tune even of your own that you’ve played 1000’s of times can sound so different when played on a weissenborn? what is it about this instrument that captures the ears and the heart?
"It has a certain shimmer to it’s sound; very warm, sweet, haunting".
That all being said why do you think the weissenborn hasn’t had more of a resurgence in recent years especially in the country, blue grass and new country arena?
"I think that the Dobro and steel guitar have both been such a prominent sound for those genres, and for the most part, they suit them more as well in general. However, it seems as if the Weissenborn is front and center much more these days, even if outside the country music spectrum. Musician/singer/songwriter/producer Ben Harper and Bill Asher of Asher Guitars have done so much to bring it into the public’s eyes and ears, as well as David Lindley and many more".
Who among your illustrious sliding musician friends own or play a weissenborn?
"Aside from Ben and David, the names that come to mind off the top of my head are Greg Leisz, Steve Fishell, Jerry Douglas, John Ely, Lucky Oceans, Ed Gerhard".
Whats your favourite piece of weissenborn playing past or present?
"Way too many to list, but the piece that caught my attention and introduced me to the sound was David Lindley’s beautiful solo on “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt, & Emmy Lou Harris, “The Trio” CD)".
Have you ever played weissenborn in support of another artist. And Have you ever been asked to record with a weissenborn as a studio musician for someone else?
"When I first got my first Weissenborn, I started bringing it along to recording sessions as an extra “sound” to have; something different to offer. After awhile it started to become requested when I’d get a call for an acoustic slide track that needed something other than a resonator sound".
Thanks for agreeing to do this article for the website it’s very much appreciated. When i announced this interview On FaceBook it went ballistic, people really, really love you especially the older dobro and pedal steel converts :-)
Lets start things off by recounting the story of how you first entered the world of slide guitar. It was a business offer from Asleep At The Wheel i believe, the band gave you six months to learn the lap steel? now that’s a huge assignment…’learn a new instrument good enough to tour with in six months’, what made you take their crazy offer? and how did that all turn out for you?
"I entered the world of slide guitar long before the chapter with Ray Benson & Asleep At The Wheel, although they certainly altered the course of things! I learned acoustic guitar when I was 11 yrs. old, and between then & age 20 or so, attempted bottleneck slide and open tunings. Took up the Dobro when I was around 21, then 6 string lap steel years later, and fooled around with the double neck 8 string non-pedal steel as a hobby in my late 30’s. A lucky opportunity enabled me to submit a demo tape to the Wheel…I’d heard they were looking for a steel player, and I don’t know what possessed me to give them that demo, but I did. It had lots of Dobro & lap steel, but only one steel guitar instrumental (which was not very well played). Ray had also seen a clip of me from a TV show, playing steel guitar on one song with Leon Redbone. Ray auditioned me, then hired me & I moved to Austin, TX, where the 'Wheel' was based out of, and I took lessons from Texas steel greats John Ely, Herb Remington, and Maurice Anderson whenever I could between tours. It’s true that Ray gave me 6 months to learn the steel guitar, I had a lot to learn to be able to take it from “hobby” level to being a serious player, especially with the caliber of musicians in Asleep At The Wheel. I had been a long time fan of that band and was willing to do whatever it took….it was truly on the job training. I called it “Boot Camp For Western Swing”. I was with them for eight and a half years and it was great. Thank you Ray Benson"!
Going from being a conventional guitarist at the time to a lap steel player must have been like driving at night with no headlights, i am referring to the lack of raised frets and the importance to get your pitch right, was that a smooth transition for you?
"Going from regular guitar to Dobro was a challenge, precisely because of what you mentioned. It took me a long time to be able to get used to using a bar instead of fingers, getting the intonation, and figuring out how to make chords & melodies in open tuning. When I started playing (6 string) lap steel, it was a different set of challenges: getting used to an amp and using a volume pedal, changing my touch so it was lighter, and using a different tone bar. (a rounded “bullet nosed” bar instead of the traditional Stevens bar I’d been using at the time for Dobro). And while we’re here folks, I want to take a pause for a Public Service Announcement (just kidding) and say that although the politically correct term for Dobro is now “resophonic guitar”, I’ll refer to it as a “Dobro” here since most people know it as such (and it takes up less room to type)".
Visit the official Cindy Cashdollar website @ www.cindycashdollar.com
Didn’t you recently just tour the UK with Albert Lee and get given a ‘Weissenbro’ from Ed Greenfield of Anderwood Guitars? Have you had chance to sit down and play it properly yet?
"Ed was kind enough to loan me that “Weissenbro” so I could play a couple of acoustic tunes with Albert and Ralph McTell for Ralph’s portion of the show, and the beautiful combination sound of resonator and Weissenborn was perfect for it".
Always fingerpicks when you play the weissenborn? do you ever go bare finger?
"I always use fingerpicks; a John Pearse “Vintage” thumb pick and two metal National or Dunlop fingerpicks in .025 gauge".
Pinky finger rest, is that a technique you naturally started to adopt when playing other slide instruments or did you your adjust your technique to play the weissenborn?
"I think that came about when I started playing Dobro".
Bullet tone bars or sculpted tone bars? or horses for courses, depends what instrument and song you’re playing?
"I use a bullet bar for steel guitar and lap steel (Breezy Ridge Instruments “Thermo Cryonic lap steel Bar”, 3/4 size). For acoustic slide, I have a custom bar that’s sculpted on the sides, but rounded on the nose".
What tunings do you usually prefer when playing your weissenborn?
"I prefer D tuning, it just seems to like it there. I’ve also used D minor, D9, and open C tuning as well".
Your song “Locust Grove” is one of my all time favourite slide tracks is very sweet and endearing indeed, kind of "Amazing Grace" meets “Look So Good” by David Lindley. Tell us about this beautiful instrumental and how it started life and ended being recorded on your solo album.
"Thank you! That melody came to me the first time I came back home to visit after my move to Austin, TX. My grandparents had a dairy farm and I took a drive to revisit the property, it was where I’d grown up. It had ceased operation long, long ago so there hadn’t really been anything left of it for many years. I think it was the emotion of coming home and seeing the barns and out buildings in the final stages of falling down that made that melody come on so fast. The farm was Locust Grove Dairy, so I named the song in honour of it".
What projects or tours are you working on right now?
"In addition to the release of that new CD in 2016 (no title yet, still in midst of), I’ll be doing a two week tour with one of my favorite slide players, Sonny Landreth, in February here in the U.S. and hopefully more work with Albert Lee. I also might do some shows with Rory Block, she and I have done some duet gigs in the past".
Thank you so kindly for sparing some of your valuable time to talk to us, all the best to you and goodbye.
Large parts of your career seem to have been dedicated to being a trusted and hugely respected support musician. Being brought into a band to add more depth, support, and character to someone else’s work. For me when i listen to a great country or rock track it’s those tiny but perfectly formed accented phrases and solos by the pedal steel, lap steel or dobro player which are always strangely the most pleasing. Tell me do you ever get tired of making great musicians sound even greater?
"I love being on the “team” and getting inspired by the vocalists & musicians I work with. I imagine it’s like being a chef.. the main ingredients inspire the spices; the nuances that bring out the flavour. You don’t want to overpower, you want to blend in but compliment what’s going on".
Improvising on the fly must be nerve raking at times tell me do you thrive on this, is this the adrenalin rush that makes you feel alive?
"Oh, it can be crazy sometimes, and then it can be “crazy good”! Sometimes not getting the chance to know what you’re doing ahead of time is a good thing, because you’re truly relying on your instincts. It’s an adrenalin rush when those turn out to be right".
You have had only one solo album back in 2003 “Slide Show”, why in a career of nearly 3 decades haven’t we heard more solo records from you? you must have a wealth of original material stored up?
"One would think that and I wish it were true! I enjoy putting my energy into working with different people, learning material, touring, learning different genres of music, but (for me), it minimizes the time and energy required to do a CD. I can happily say that I’m now in the middle of working on a new one, to be released in 2016. It’ll be similar to 'Slide Show' in that there’s lots of guest artists, and a mix of acoustic and electric, but there will also be a few more original tunes".
Do you play many solo shows these days in-between your support/session duties?
"I never play solo shows, I think the type of instrument(s) that I play just sound so much better with a band. I’ll do a few solo songs sometimes, but can’t imagine doing a whole evening by myself; it’s way more fun when there’s other people".
When you support other artists what percentage of times are you in a position of relative musical comfort, do you get the luxury of intense rehearsals or are you expected to be on such a perceptive level musically speaking that you just roll with the punches and improvise from instinct and experience? is that why you are in such high demand as a touring band member and session musician?
"If I had to average it out over the years, I think it’s a 50/50 percentage, or so it seems. Or, it can go in between the two things…sometimes artists will send me their material to learn, but there’s no rehearsal".
You’ve played with some of the greatest artists in the modern era such as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks, Ryan Adams, Van Morrison to name but a few, but can you tell me what job was the most rewarding musically?
"I get asked that question a lot, and quite honestly, it’s impossible to choose. They were all rewarding in different ways, all wonderful people/artists/music. I also value the experiences I had early on when I first started playing locally in my hometown of Woodstock, NY, because those were the “building blocks” and stepping stones".
Now if you go on YouTube right now and put “weissenborn” into the search engine a video of you will pop up on the first page with nearly 90,000 views, do you know the one i mean? (the one with you showing off your original 1927 style 2 weissenborn). Can you please tell us of the story of how you acquired this fine instrument, it's quite a poignant story.
"My friend Ben Elder ( musician, writer, musical instrument historian & collector) knew of one for sale by a very sweet elderly couple whose son had passed away. Japanese collectors had already put a high bid on it, but I got in touch with the couple and spoke with them about it, asked about their son and what led him to getting one. It turned out he had lived in Hawaii and was trying to learn how to play it. He had lessons and sheet music in the case, but they’d never heard him play it and had no idea what it sounded like. I promised that if they could sell it to me at a more affordable price, it would be loved and played, and I’d make them a recording so they could finally hear what it was about".
Am i right in saying you recorded three songs for the parents, what songs and did those recordings ever get released or made available to the general public?
"I can’t remember what tunes I did, but I recall they were Hawaiian instrumentals. I can’t find the (cassette!) copy of it and the studio doesn’t have it anymore. It was never released to the public".
What other weissenborns do you own these days? I have seen one on YouTube (once again) made by Larry Progreba a baritone weissenborn with real 1800’s coins as fret markers, tell us about that unique instrument and how it got commissioned.
"I’d seen David Lindley at a live show in Austin,TX, playing these great Pogreba baritones, so I asked him for the contact. Larry Pogreba happened to have that particular one on hand, it was never commissioned. Meant to be"!
OK here’s a question i like you to clear up for us, is the instrumental you play an excerpt from on that video (“Show Us Your Money Maker”) an original by yourself and has that ever been recorded on a weissenborn by you? So many people have asked me about this tune on this video and so is it available for download it would be great to clear that up once and for all.
"That tune is actually a song I wrote called “Waltz For Abilene” and will be on my new CD. (the interview was part of a series about Austin, Texas musicians and their guitars, so they titled the segment “Show Us your Money Maker”)".
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