Cindy Cashdollar / Steve James & Del Rey – Kleinert/James Arts Center (Woodstock, NY)
When Cindy Cashdollar stands to plays her square-neck dobro, she assumes the spread-leg stance of a gunfighter, and when she sweeps a steel bar over the six strings, the notes sizzle like cheeseburgers on an open grill. And when she returned to her hometown and performed the title song from her solo album Slide Show, accompanied by Steve James on a National steel guitar, her face glowed with a satisfied smile.
Cashdollar honed her chops during a decade playing steel guitar with Asleep At The Wheel, a gig that eventually brought the Austin-based musician an invitation to record with Bob Dylan (on the Grammy-winning Time Out Of Mind) and to tour with Ryan Adams. But her roots are really in the bohemian hills of Woodstock, New York, where she was born and raised, and where she got her first road gig (with bluesgrass artist John Herald).
A gifted, non-singing sidewoman, however, does not a concert make, so Cashdollar brought along a taste of Texas in the form of James, a string-snapping guitarist with a taste for ragtime, and Del Rey, a wisecracking blueswoman who takes special pleasure in channeling the sound of Memphis Minnie. This put Cashdollar in her natural role of contributing snappy leads on dobro, lap steel and steel guitar. And the solos were as sweet as her smile.
The concert evoked a string-band session, with James and Rey playing acoustically and leaning into a single microphone. There was also instrumental variety, with James doubling on mandolin and Rey switching between guitar and a resonator ukulele. John Sebastian, who has recorded with both Cashdollar and James, also popped onstage to add a rhythm guitar to Yank Rachell’s “Tappin’ That Thing” and harmonica to “Saturday Night In Jail”.
Cashdollar’s solos were bright and varied; her lap steel chimed with sympathy during James’ country-blues take on the Ray Charles hit “Born To Lose”, and her dobro whined like a semi during Rey’s “Truck Driver’s Roll”. But the concert’s principal appeal was the subtle interplay of master musicians, a quality evident on “Spanish Fandango”, with Cashdollar and James using metal-bodied instruments to produce silvery harmonies.
The evening ended with the trio supplemented by Sebastian on harp and Happy and Artie Traum on guitars. Solos were swapped on the chestnut “Sitting On Top Of The World”, which, coming days after a late-winter snowstorm, left fellow pickers pining for the back porch.