Ashley Cleveland

Big Town

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When a major label was releasing as many titles as Atlantic during the late '80s and early '90s, some decent CDs were bound to fall between the corporate cracks. In 1991, one example was Big Town, which showed the underexposed Ashley Cleveland to be a passionate, appealing rocker with soul influences. The last thing Cleveland will be accused of is having a soft, girlish voice. Rough, throaty, and hard-edged, Cleveland's delivery brings to mind Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Tyler. But while she's a pop/rocker first and foremost, melodic cuts such as "Love on the Main Line," "Up from the Ether," and "I Could Learn to Love You" give the impression that she's also spent plenty of time listening to Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and other African-American legends. Big Town may not contain any outright R&B or funk, but the influences of Turner and Franklin definitely assert themselves in Cleveland's phrasing. Not fantastic but likable on the whole, this CD indicated that Cleveland was someone to watch out for. But, unfortunately, a commercial break eluded the whiskey-voiced singer.

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