Of all the diverse talent that will be on display at this year’s ELLNORA: The Guitar Festival, which takes place September 4 through 6 at the Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, only one performer can be the Artist-in-Residence. For 2013, that honor goes to slide and Dobro master Cindy Cashdollar. Best known for her work with Asleep at the Wheel, Bob Dylan, and Ryan Adams, Cashdollar is a player of uncommon diversity and deep musicality, which will be on display in a big way at ELLNORA.
Attendees at past festivals are already well aware of Cashdollar’s work. “I’ve performed at three previous ELLNORA festivals,” she says, “and the gigs were just great. This is just such a great festival. There is so much variety and great music. David Spellman, the curator, gets all these amazing players. The whole festival, down to the sound crews and techs, is a very well-oiled machine and the musical offerings are just incredible.”
Being the Artist-in-Residence this year will be a slightly different role for Cashdollar. “Instead of going there with just one artist as I have in the past,” she explains, “I’ll be playing with various artists. Meeting and seeing musicians that I’m not familiar with, having the time to catch their performances and maybe jam with them will be so cool.”
For many people, a festival as big and diverse as ELLNORA might seem overwhelming at first glance. It’s a lot to take in even as a spectator, much less as someone who is expected to be, in many ways, the face of the festival. Cashdollar welcomes the challenge, however. “It’s just so incredible. It’s like going to a huge buffet and you don’t know what to put on your plate first. I’m really excited to see the Lee Boys. Kaki King, I think she’s fabulous. Luther Dickinson and the Wandering, John Scofield, Lucinda Williams, Kevin Breit—those are some people I’m hoping to see and play with.”
As the Artist-in-Residence, Cashdollar will be sitting in with many of the acts on the bill. It’s a role that her career has prepared her for quite well. “I’ve done so many different things, and the idea of jamming with all these different artists isn’t that much different than the work I’ve done over the years. You have to hang on and go with it. If you let your mind get in the way, if you start thinking too much about who you’re working with instead of just playing to their music, you just get in your own way.”
With this being Cashdollar’s fourth ELLNORA festival, she’s a vet. For those who haven’t made the scene before, they’re in for a treat: an amazing collection of talent in a beautiful setting. When asked what attendees could expect at this year’s festival, she didn’t hesitate. “They can expect to hear the greatest variety of artists anywhere. And they can expect to learn about music. It’s educational and entertaining. It’s also very user-friendly space to get around, the way it’s all set up. This is a guitar festival, but you’ll have great musicians and singers and songwriters of all types. It’s going to be so much fun and it’s really exciting.”