South or swamp?

Kathy’s learned to trust my judgement with Ark bookings.  While mostly I just sign up for our old faves, now and then I’ll slip in someone I’ve only heard about.  Worth taking a flyer.  So, it was with last Friday’s Sonny Landreth and Cindy Cashdollar.  I scrutinize the Ark schedule far in advance so as to get good tickets.  When I spotted these two last winter I jumped at the chance.  I knew Sonny was a Southern rock guitar hero, and Cindy was a member of the original Asleep at the Wheel.  I probably watched her perform back in the day when everyone in the Wheel was about the same age and they bopped around Ann Arbor, usually sharing a bill with Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen.   Kathy of course knew nothing of Sonny and Cindy, although she likes AATW.  I have a Sonny CD “South of I-10”, his 4th from an output of 13 ’81-’20 (1), which I played for her.

Pretty upbeat and a little hard.  As for Cindy, I’m almost as insufferable talking about the Wheel as I am for Commander Cody.  Remember, Ray Benson formed AATW in 1970 inspired by Commander Cody, who showed you could sell old country to hippies.  Of course, the Wheel over the years has been sustained by big Ray’s vision and the many talented musicians he’s gotten to play with him.  The originals were easily replaced, including Cindy.  But she’s had a marvelous career, pretty much country royalty, taking her proficiency on flat stringed instruments (pedal steel, dobro, flattop) to back up legends Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and Lyle Lovett while winning 5 Grammys as a member of the Wheel (2).  After the Wheel, she’s been enlisted by Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Dave Alvin, John Sebastian, Rod Stewart, Albert Lee, Marcia Ball, Roy Block, Jorma Kaukonen, Leon Redbone, BeauSoleil, Peter Rown, Amy Helm, and on and on.  It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful and has retained her looks.

From the way the artists took the stage, you’d think some sort of folkie concert was coming.  Tall, skinny bespectled Sonny looking like the guitar nerd he is sitting stage right, then the surprisingly beautiful Cindy wafting in to his left.  No pedal steel in sight.  Darn.  Well, it’s hard to get those things into the overhead bin.  She’d acquit herself on flattop and dobro.  Once set, it really looked like a recital.  After some quiet humorous words from both of them, they tore into it.  This wasn’t gonna be no recital!  (Full disclosure.  The pics I took didn’t come out so I kyped this off the net).

Man, did they make some sound.  Sonny sometimes sounded like he was playing 3 guitars at once.  Oh, and he can sing, too.  I never imagined you could make a rhythm section from a dobro and flattop, but it sounded like she had a full drum kit up there.  With an opening number like “Blues Attack” (3), you knew they weren’t going to just ease into this thing.   Sonny and Cindy started this tour in March, and from, it looks like they’ve been following the same setlist.  This one is from their show at the Thunderbird Café in Pittsburgh March 26 (4).   One of the beauties of is that each song listed is linked to an audio file of that same song, so you can click your way through the whole concert.  High points for me were “Black Top Run” (5), revving up the middle of the set, and a slide guitar fest from the old blues number “Prodigal Son” (6), which kicked off their encore. 

Sonny’s roots are in the swamps of deep southern Louisiana, apprenticing with zydeco king Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band, among others.  His music has been called “swamp music”, zydeco, and Cajun.  All those influences are there, to be sure, but they’re only a starting point for Sonny, always the experimenter.  He’s dandy with the slide, but does much else with a guitar, even going acoustic sometimes.  Yes, he’s a brilliant guitarist from the deep south, but this ain’t “Southern rock”.  You’ll not mistake a Sonny Landreth concert for Alabama or Lynard Skynard.  He’s been nominated for 2 Grammys and Eric Clapton says, “Sonny Landreth is probably the most underestimated musician on the planet, and also probably one of the most advanced.” (1)

Cindy has what looks like a beautiful new album out, which of course I ordered (7).  “Waltz for Abilene” welcomes as guests many who have played with her over the years, including Albert Lee, Rory Block, Sonny (of course), Jake Langley, Ray Benson, Derek O’Brien, Mike Flanigin, Omar Kent Dykes, long tall Marcia Ball, and Arlen Roth.  I can hardly wait.

Cindy and Sonny began playing together many years ago in what started as a sometime thing.  Over the years it’s become regular, and I can’t wait for them to roll through town again.  Heck, since Kathy and I are always looking for an excuse for a little trip, I’ll be scrutinizing their schedules to see where else they might be playing.  Just another Black Top Run.


1. Sonny Landreth.  Discogs.

2. Cindy Cashdollar.

3. Sonny Landreth & Cindy Cashdollar – Blues Attack 9-22-2016.  YouTube.

4. Cindy Cashdollar and Sonny Landreth Setlist.

5. Sonny Landreth – Blacktop Run (Official Lyric Video).  YouTube.

6. Sonny Landreth & Cindy Cashdollar.  Prodigal Son.

7. Cindy Cashdollar (artist).  Waltz for Abilene.

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

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