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My review and photos of Willie Nelson posted to Elmore magazine

27 Mar


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Willie Nelson and his family shared the best of his golden oldies inside Travis County arena to a sold out crowd opening night of the 2015 Austin Rodeo March 14.

For a solid hour Willie proved 80-years young and sang several medleys created from hits off his 68 studio, ten live, 37 compilation, and 27 collaboration albums including “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.”

As always, his sister Bobbie Nelson played piano, joined by two of Willie’s kids, Lukas Nelson and Amy Nelson; two grandchildren, Zach Thomas and Rebecca Thomas, and Waylon Payne, the son of the late Sammi Smith. On stage together they sang a medley of hymns like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Band members included harmonica player Mickey Raphael together, drummer Billy English and upright bassist Kevin Smith.

Lukas Nelson provided the night’s biggest surprise with a rhythm and blues solo on “It’s Floodin’ Down in Texas.” Like father, like son, Lukas added his own improvised and distinctive guitar leads and vocals to the song that once served as part of the repertoire of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Playing Trigger, his ever-faithful acoustic guitar, Willie performed “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” the hit off his 2012 Heroes album.

As the evening ended, the legacy of songs, like gifts delivered by three generations of the Nelson family, resonated long after the dust cleared.

Please see my review and photos posted to Elmore magazine’s website by following this link:

Elmore Magazine | Willie Nelson

My interview with Cindy Cashdollar posted to Elmore

25 Mar

BESTCindy Cashdollar    Texas Guitar Women toasted some teary goodbyes Feb. 19 while regaling joyous stories of the good old days at the One2One Bar in Austin with five-time Grammy award winner and resonator and steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar.

Cashdollar’s Austin friends officially gave her the boot — albeit a gold-colored and bejeweled one — as they celebrated on stage in front of a standing-room audience at the first of two such parties scheduled for her through March.

The send off party sold out days in advance as news spread that Cashdollar plans to leave town soon for her hometown of Woodstock, NY.

The Texas Guitar Women members included: bass player Sarah Brown, guitarist and singer/songwriter Shelley King, and drummer Lisa Pankratz, and guitarist/singer Carolyn Wonderland. Special guests included pianist and singer Marcia Ball and guitarist and singer Rosie Flores, who joined up halfway through the show.

Those who missed this party have a second chance when Johnny Nicholas & Hell Bent hold another send off for Cashdollar March 25 at Saxon Pub where Cashdollar has been performing most Wednesday nights with him and his band.

As one of the most famous female resonator and steel guitar players of all time, Cashdollar traverses the genres of blues, bluegrass, Cajun, country, folk, jazz, rock, roots, soul and Western Swing music.

Cashdollar has contributed to dozens of album recordings, three movie sound tracks, four instructional DVDs, and has performed on stage with some of the biggest names in the industry throughout a professional music career that spans nearly 30 years.

In an exclusive interview with Elmore magazine, Cashdollar said she soon plans to record a second album as a follow up to her debut CD, Slide Show.

Guests who performed on Slide Show read like a who’s who list of Americana and roots musicians including: Sonny Landreth, Marcia Ball, Lucky Oceans, Mike Auldridge, Redd Volkaert, Herb Remington, Jorma Kaukonen, and Steve James.

She plans to return to Austin as frequently as she can, she said.

   “There’s no way that I could ever leave Austin and not come back,” Cashdollar said. “There’s too many good things to just shut the door and go.”

She will return to her hometown of Woodstock, NY after living in Austin 23-years to live closer to her family and her significant other, Harvey Citron, of Citron Guitars.

“I’m still going to be working, that’s for sure. When you’re a musician – most musicians any way – you have to keep working. It’s funny because everybody thinks I’m retiring, but no, not at all,” she said.

While in her late 30s, Austin became her home base in 1992, after Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel hired her to go on the road. She spent eight and a half years with ASAW before leaving the band in 2000.

Since then she has performed and or recorded with Ryan Adams, Dave Alvin, Marcia Ball, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Van Morrison, Jorma Kaukonen, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Leon Redbone, Peter Rowan, BeauSolieil, Rod Stewart, and Redd Volkaert to name a few.

Cashdollar became the first woman inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2011 and she also was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

   “Austin is this incredible pool of so many talented singers, songwriters, musicians and so many great artists in one place. It’s just unbelievable,” she said.

“I’ve had such an amazing time here. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to work with people in Austin and with people outside of Austin. I just feel lucky to have had the best of both worlds.”

After she settles into her Woodstock digs she will hit the road this summer to tour with British guitar player and Grammy award winner Albert Lee and his band.

Cashdollar is her real name. She has been told that the name originated with the Mohawk tribe and Dutch who settled in Upstate New York.

Her fellow musicians on stage often claim that Cashdollar hits perfect notes consistently and that she often tailors her sound to “follow” fellow band mates instinctively to fit her music into the genre being performed.

“Steel guitar is fretless – it’s a very unforgiving instrument. I mean you’re playing all of these guitars with a slide bar so there’s not very much room for error. You’ve got to be in tune,” she said.

   “I really try to listen to a lot of components that are going on. I try to listen to the lyrics, I try to listen to other musicians that I’m playing with and I try to figure out just where can I best fit where I’m adding something instead of overcrowding something that’s going on. That’s the way my brain, or my ears always work.”

Cashdollar also brings several guitars with her to play wherever she performs or records. She possesses an uncanny ability to change guitars often on stage, a feat that boggles the minds of most musicians, as not all guitars are created equally.

“The steel guitar I play has two different necks and two different tunings and eight strings,” she said.

“To me that’s fun. I always like a challenge. The more versatile, the better for me. It’s like cooking. I always compare music to cooking. You can’t really over spice anything unless it’s really called for. I always think of musicianship as being like the spices in a recipe. You want to enhance the recipe or dish. You don’t want to overload it.”

Her career expanded over the last 17 years while contributing to three movie soundtracks including: the Horse Whisperer, in 1998; Elf, in 2003; and This is 40 in 2012.

   She also has made guest appearances with the Guy’s All Star Shoe Band on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio series that broadcasts every Saturday. The show airs from 5 to 7 p.m. Central Texas time on National Public Radio (NPR,) and also on Sirius XM satellite radio live from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, MN. Cashdollar admits that the performances kept even her on her toes.

“Being that it’s live radio, things happen at the last minute and you just kind of have to be ready,” she said.

Cashdollar has created four instructional DVDs for Homespun Tapes and she teaches workshops at Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, OH. ResoSummit in Nashville, TN.

Teaching has become an important component of her career, she said.

  “To me to be able to teach and to give people something to take with them is really rewarding,” she said.

“Touring, there generally are a few people at every show that come out and tell me ‘I learned how to play from your instructional DVDs and it is such a wonderful feeling.”

As a teenager, Cashdollar visited a multitude of popular club in Woodstock. She recalls often seeing Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson in the roots rock group The Band; blues singer and harmonica player Paul Butterfield; Northern Irish musician and singer George Ivan “Van” Morrison; guitarist/auto harpist and front man for Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian; blues singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt, blues songwriter and record producer William James “Willie” Dixon, and father of Chicago blues musician McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield.

“There was this club there called The Joyous Lake in Woodstock where I saw most of the acts when I was probably 15 or 16 years old,” she said. “Nobody worried about ‘carding’ anyone (for legal identification.) I saw all these great players. I think that’s what really where I got my various interests in all kinds of music.”

While in her late 20s, Cashdollar played locally in various Woodstock bands, before landing her first touring gig on a Dobro with one of New York state’s bluegrass band led by singer, songwriter and guitar player John Herald.

She toured with Herald for five years. Throughout the 1960s, Herald wrote songs performed by legendary folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Maria Muldaur and Linda Ronstadt. He died in 2005 at age 65.

Then for five years she toured with blues and jazz artist Leon Redbone.

Cashdollar said she feels obligated to pay forward the favors that she received growing up in the idyllic and magical Catskill Mountains surrounded by musicians during an era when music gave life to every moment.

“It was a beautiful place to grow up. I feel really happy to have grown up there,” she said. “It was a very creative place to be. When I was growing up there was a lot of music, a lot of bands moving there and a lot of artists. That was my college – that was my education.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Hell Bent promise special surprise guests for Cashdollar’s final send off at the Saxon Pub at the end of March.


Please see my story posted to Elmore magazine’s website by following this link:











My review of Echo Sparks’ Ghost Town Girl posted to Elmore today

12 Mar

Elmore Magazine | Echo Sparks – Ghost Town GirlEcho Sparks’ Ghost Town Girl, captures the heart of any inner flower child within listening distance of its 1960s California sound. Like the lyrics for the single, “Broken Arrow,” this band’s music strikes straight for the soul.

Its members hail from Orange County and their music feels reminiscent of The Byrds and The Grass Roots. Echo Sparks’ January self-released album fits loosely into the Americana genre with influences of country, folk, rockabilly, Mexicali, and pop music.

Featuring double bass, two guitars, and a steady drumbeat, together with a dreamy two-part harmony, the trio delivers the song, “Rolling 60s,” with a San Fernando Valley vibe that simply feels far out groovy.

Members C.C. Kinneck on vocals/guitar, D.A. Valdez on vocals/guitar/banjo/drums/percussion together with Cindy Ballreich on upright bass/mandolin, tell 11 musical tales with refrains that linger long afterwards, like the rich scent of orange groves.

Their song “I Think It’s You,” reaches across any crowded room to fill an empty space musically that has been lacking for the past five decades.

Musical evangelists, Echo Sparks, have a sound that feels immediately tangible, pure and 100 percent authentic.

Please follow this link to see my article posted on Elmore magazine’s site:

My review of Texas Guitar Women posts to Elmore magazine

11 Mar

Elmore Magazine | Texas Guitar WomenIt felt like a hen party with chick pickers at Austin’s One2One Bar Feb. 19 as friends of five-time Grammy award winning steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar sent her off in style to her hometown of Woodstock, NY. Grand dames Marcia Ball and Rosie Flores formed a sisterhood for one night with the Texas Guitar Women, including Cashdollar, Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland, Sarah Brown, and Lisa Pankratz.

Fans crowded the length of the bar’s platform stage inside the strip shopping center with little wing room to hear the girls’ stories, songs and tequila toasts.

Flores, eternally youthful with a shock of black hair, stole the show with her playful romp, “Run Chicken Run.”

Ball rocked the house as she wailed out her repertoire of original songs and played keyboards with a Jerry Lee Lewis-like frenzy.

Guitar goddess, Wonderland, sang a series of Janis Joplin-like bluesy rock ballads while fanning her flaming long auburn red hair.

King grooved out on the title track from her Building a Fire CD, released last August on the Lemonade Records label.

Brown also delighted fans with a vocal performance reminiscent of her 1996 Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ solo CD as she completed the rhythm section with Pankratz on drums.

Please follow this link to see my review posted on Elmore magazine’s website:

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My story about Gatlin Brothers’ lifetime achievement award posted to Elmore

10 Mar

Elmore Magazine | Texas Medal Of Arts Awards  Celebrities lit up the stage at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin Feb. 25 for the Texas Medal of Arts Awards gala that honored legendary country performers The Gatlin Brothers among others.

Texas Cultural Trust provided a lifetime achievement award to The Gatlin Brothers, Larry, Steve and Rudy Gatlin for their musical career that spans nearly 60 years. Proceeds from the eighth biennial event will fund arts programs administered by the trust.

The three young Gatlin brothers began at two, four and six years old singing gospel music together on The Slim Willet Show broadcast live on KRBC-TV from Abilene and they eventually recorded 28 albums together.

Larry began his career in Nashville by writing songs recorded by country stars Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Elvis Presley to name a few. His brothers soon joined him to record two solo albums on Monument Records, The Pilgrim in 1974 and 1975’s Rain Rainbow. After receiving a Grammy award and being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, the brothers officially became a trio in 1979 to release their debut album, High Time, and signed with Columbia Records.

He later wrote 34 top 40 hits for the group including eight number ones over the course of their long career, as the Gatlin Brothers lit up marquees and packed hundreds of music halls across America before their tours halted in 1992. Currently, the Gatlin Brothers’ 60th Anniversary Tour has scheduled appearances from Nashville all the way to the West Coast by May and back through Texas before it ends in Virginia this November.

Blues, rock and pop legend Steven Haworth “Steve” Miller presented the Gatlins with their award while a montage of home videos and vintage photos displayed on a screen at the back of the stage. Images of the three brothers and their younger sister, LaDonna, dressed in western wear and cowboy hats appeared while their song famous “Swing Down Chariot” played.

The Gatlin Brothers together with their bass player Steve Smith, afterwards performed “All the Gold in California,” a number one hit that stayed on Billboard magazine’s Hot County Singles chart for ten weeks in 1979. The audience enthusiastically contributed to the familiar chorus.

Steve Gatlin said growing up in West Texas their parents taught the boys Christian values and demonstrated a strong work ethic. He attributed their music education in whole harmony structure, phrasing and enunciation, to Texas elementary schools.

   “I had wonderfully gifted choral directors – many — from elementary school through college that inspired me with all the genres of music and opened up a world to me that I didn’t know existed,” Steve said.

“The world of music has enriched my life forever. Again thank you again for honoring me and my brothers as I honor those who taught me. I now live in Tennessee, but my musical roots will always be right here in the great state of Texas.”

Rudy also thanked the Texas Cultural Trust for honoring the siblings.

“We’ve had a wonderful life. We’ve been blessed,” he said.

Mentioning fellow Texans and Country Hall of Famers Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury and Roger Miller, Larry also praised his former senior high school teacher, Ann Louise Jones and English professor Dr. Charles Beatty at the University of Houston.

“Those little songs about doggies and horses that I wrote for us and we recorded, I owe to those people who engendered and fostered a love in me for words,” Larry said.

The Gatlin Brothers also performed their 1986 song, “Texas (is What Life’s All About)” that Larry composed together with Lance Legault for the Partners album.

Also recognized at the Texas Medal of Arts Awards were: T. Bone Burnett from Fort Worth, for his 40 years of experience in the music and entertainment business; Jamie Foxx from Terrell for his work as a comedian, film actor and musician; the Kilgore College Rangerettes of Kilgore for pioneering the field of dance drill teams; and Rick Lowe, of Houston for his national and international visual arts projects.

Other honorees included Dr. Pepper Snapple Group from Plano as a corporate arts patron; Margaret McDermott of Dallas as an individual arts patron; Emilio Nicolas of San Antonio, as a founding pioneer of Spanish language television in the United States; and Dan Rather from Wharton, for his more than 60 years covering major news events.

Additional awards went to Charles Renfro from Houston, for his architectural design; Robert Schenkkan, from Austin, for his work as a writer for theatre, film and television; Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Dallas, for its arts education programs; Lawrence Wright, of Austin, for his contributions to the literary arts; Chandra Wilson from Houston, for her career in television, film and on Broadway; and Ruth Altshuler from Dallas who received the Standing Ovation award for her philanthropic and charitable contributions.

Hosted by four-time National Football Conference Champion former Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman and seven-time Emmy Award winning veteran anchor of FOX sports, Joe Buck, the elite event included a star-studded cast of celebrities. Presenters included Steve Miller, former First Lady Laura Bush, and Asleep at the Wheel frontman, Ray Benson. Honorary chairs included Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus. Attendees included Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and businessman H. Ross Perot who ran unsuccessfully in 1992 and 1996 for the U.S. presidency as an independent candidate.

Link to my story and photos posted on Elmore magazine’s website:

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Shakey Graves review and photos posted to Elmore, video uploaded to Youtube

10 Mar

Elmore Magazine | Shakey GravesFrighteningly original Shakey Graves shook the rafters at Gruene Hall, the 6000-square foot historic Central Texas dancehall just outside New Braunfels Feb. 20.

Graves, (born Alejandro Rose-Garcia,) performed his hauntingly sweet mix of gritty and melodic vocals for a standing room only crowd. Throughout the sold out show, Graves changed tempo with tantalizing tunes not classified singularly as either country, blues, or folk and brought his audience participation to new levels.

Playing his hollow body acoustic guitar and homemade kick drum made from a Samsonite suitcase, Graves alternated between performing solo and delivering a big sound together with upright bass player Macon Terry and drummer Chris “Boo” Booshada. Millennials who had gathered nearly two hours beforehand to drink Shiner Bock beer from longneck bottles stood, stomped, clapped and chanted choruses on song favorites such as “The Perfect Parts” within a handshake of Graves.

Dressed in his suit, tie and Bob Wills-style hat, Graves granted an encore soaked through with perspiration as temperatures, spooky in February even for Central Texas, hovered at an uncharacteristically balmy 75 degrees. That’s when a female fan, identified only as Nicole, took the stage to harmonize on “Dearly Departed,” the song he previously recorded with Colorado native singer Esme Patterson for his And the War Came On album released last October on Dualtone Records.

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Please see the posted story on Elmore magazine’s website at:


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