I’m interested in observing – both in myself and others – how musical tastes change throughout the years. Sometimes it’s not so much actually changing as it is shifting, or expanding in order to absorb other genres into our own musical canon; we develop an appreciation for other kinds of music that we may never have listened to previously. Whether this is due to personal growth or merely aging, this willingness to sample other things is extremely valuable and brings the listener to another level that might not be experienced otherwise. I believe that it was Elvis Costello who replied, when asked to explain why he had abandoned the hard, fast paced, biting songs of his New Wave past:“Man, I’m just not that angry anymore.”
But where, you ask, am I going with this?
Well, it occurs to me that there is a lot of hybrid work out there these days. Not prepared to confine themselves to one genre, some artists are freeing themselves up and drawing from a whole colourful musical smorgasbord that lets them include not just the blues but also country, gospel or more typically, rock – a la Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I just finished listening to a new cd by singer/songwriter/musician Cindy Bullens Howling Trains and Barking Dogs which is a really interesting and expansive effort. Cindy is not a newcomer to the music industry and has many impressive credits in her lengthy career (including Grammy nominations, touring with Elton John, having the Dixie Chicks record one of her songs) but I have to say that I was not familiar with her work. Her liner notes cite Nashville as inspiring her to “strip down and look back to her roots” and the result is a unique and well thought out record that will, I think, still appeal to many blues listeners who aren’t going to be put off by the country and western marbling that is stirred into this cd’s base mixture.
Love Gone Good is the opening track and it’s a stand out for what is to come. A little bit Steve Earle (Copperhead Road) this is a feel-good, roll-the-windows-down-on-a-road-trip kind of tune. Cindy’s vocals are heart felt and smoldering (imagine what a pristine distillation of Lucinda Williams, Melissa Etheridge and Alannah Myles would sound like). I’m also impressed with her songwriting skills. (And, I can't help wondering what a songwriting gig with John Mellencamp would produce – these two would be a perfect writing team in my opinion … Think about it guys!)
Let Jesus Do the Talking is a throbbing anthem full of hooks and sass and sultry Deep South portent; one of my favourites.
Good at Being Gone is a slow moving, poignant song that most women will be able to relate to. The lyrics are thoughtful and careful and Cindy’s vocal delivery is all raw and laid open vulnerability.
Howling Trains and Barking Dogs is a must-hear and if Cindy Bullens is a lesser known treasure - well, you heard it here first. Click on the play icon below to have a sip … enjoy.
* Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, I received this CD to review free of charge from the artist's PR company at my own request.