Howling Trains and Barking Dogs
Review by Willard Manus

How satisfying it is to discover a singer whose work you fall in love with at first hearing. Cindy Bullens has had a 30-year career that includes two Grammy nominations, but I only recently gave her a serious listen when M.C. Records sent me a copy of HOWLING TRAINS AND BARKING DOGS, her first solo album in six years.

Bullens's voice connected with me from the gitgo. On the CD's initial track, Love Gone Good, she sang about love succeeding against all odds, conveying sly humor, pain, defiance, pride and womanly wisdom even as she kept up a rollicking beat. Bullens is essentially a rocker--she began her career touring with Elton John and Bob Crewe--but she sings a bad-ass ballad as well. A case in point being All My Angels, a sad, bittersweet confession about a wounded soul taking comfort in her guardian angels.

Bullens's debut solo album was 1979's Desire Wire (United Artists) which contained a breakthrough hit song, Survivor. After releasing two albums in the 1980s, Bullens left the business and returned to her Maine home to raise her children. In 1990, she took a trip to Nashville to see if she could adapt her rock style to country music. "It was one of the best decisions of my life," she confides.

Collaborating with a bunch of like-minded Nashville songwriters, she not only had some hits with such singers as Radney Foster and the Dixie Chicks but was encouraged to start singing again herself. Today she splits her time between Nashville and Maine; she also tours with her band, The Refugees (Wendy Waldman and Deborah Holland); they describe themselves as "Crosby, Stills and Nash with humor."

Waldman and Holland can be heard on HOWLING TRAINS AND BARKING DOGS, along with Radney Foster and David Mansfield on fiddle. Mostly, though, it is Bullens going it alone, letting her voice lead the way. And what a voice it is, the kind of voice that gets you through both the good and bad times. (