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Picks and Pans Review: Melissa Etheridge

updated 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Melissa Etheridge

It may be too soon to call in the search parties that are scouring the hinterlands for the female Bruce Springsteen, but Etheridge deserves some checking out. Born in Leavenworth, Kans., she left home at 18 to study guitar at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. (She's coy about her age now: "early-to mid-20s.") She was performing around Los Angeles when she got her first big break, a chance to write four compositions for the 1987 Nick Nolte film, Weeds. This is her first full album, an impassioned selection of pop-rock songs written by Etheridge and performed by an acoustic trio including her guitar, Craig Krampf's drums and Kevin McCormick's bass. These three, with an occasional side-man or two, muster a bigger, deeper sound than their numbers would indicate. Though her material seems obsessed with spiteful/pained/pathetic lines about recent ex-lovers, it's a literate sort of obsession: "I need some insanity, that temporary kind/ Tell me how will I ever be the same/ When I know that woman is whispering your name." The title of The Late September Dogs and its abstract imagery suggest a Dylan influence, and Etheridge's throaty, aggressively emotional, born-to-compete voice sounds like Bonnie Tyler. Her music has a rigorous vitality, and there's an edge to it. What remains to be seen is how much more there is where this came from. (Island)

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