By Adeem Bingham, Editor
It’s been several months of anticipation, but Cidny Bullens’ new album, “Walkin’ Through This World,” is finally fighting its way out of my speakers. It comes to life with this jangly little riff and Cid’s tempered rasp detailing harsh feelings of hopelessness. “Someone’s existence is gonna bend smoke. It’s my own.” The lyrics are poetic and, as is usual for his writing, they bend towards hope even from places of great desolation. I’d be remiss to not mention the pacing of the production on this one – especially the otherworldly tones of his electric sitar.
The entire project feels like an imprint of Cindy’s life journey, colored with the process of being honest with himself and the people around him about his gender identity. “Did I leave myself stranded? Did I get myself lost?” But the themes feel accessible for anyone – and especially for anyone who has felt estranged from the heteronormative, uncreative culture that leaves so many of us behind.
“Walkin’ Through This World” is the title track and it opens with a wonderful Lou Reed reference right out of the gate that circles back in the refrain of “Do-do-do’s.” Cid’s voice resonates in the lower register, exuding confidence with such casual poise. “I grew tired of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” This song seems to capture a full portrait of the album with a single line, “I’m walking through this world as exactly who I am.”
I won’t say much about “The Gender Line” because I covered it in depth in an earlier article, but it is a heartfelt, expressive song that navigates the struggle of being demonized by the greater culture just because of who you are. It is both a reaching out to cis-gendered listeners and a warm hand extended to anyone who struggles to relate to the gender binary. It’s both intensely personal and universal in narrative.
“Sugartown” is a lovely western waltz with chilling harmonies from singer-songwriter Deborah Holland (Animal Logic) that scratches all of the twang we itch for. The band is tight all the way through. Co-producers Ray Kennedy and Cidny did a beautiful job with this album, and assembled an incredible group of musicians. Drummer Lynn Williams really brings it in “Crack the Sky,” the most sonically hard-hitting of the bunch.
“I had a dream, maybe a few / I remember when I lost ‘em all / But one day they all came true” really exemplifies Cidny’s ability to straddle the line between hope and heartache. He is a masterful songwriter and his grasp of genre as a tool rather than a guide is on full display. He sings the blues straight on “Lucky For Me” and “Call Me By My Name,” but returns to his heartstrings on “Healing The Break” with his daughter Reid Bullens Crewe.
I first heard Reid’s delicate voice on “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth,” which is an astounding, soul-baring body of work. It feels very significant to hear their voices together again in this closing song. “One sweet little red bird keeps flapping her wings” sounds like an obvious allusion to the “scarlet wings” from that twenty-year-old album; his daughter Jessie still clinging to every broken note. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful like only Cid can manage.
The record is a masterpiece and worth every minute of digestion, so stop whatever you’re doing and go listen.
“Walkin’ Through This World” is available at cidnybullens.com and on all major streaming services.