IF ALL IT TOOK to break out of the local club circuit was a powerful voice, Jr. Cline would've done it years ago. Unfortunately, it takes more than that -- strong original material, for instance. Cline and his horn-driven R&B band, the Recliners, have a way to go yet in that regard, but their new album "Rope the Moon" is definitely a step in the right direction.
To hear Cline sing Jimmy Cliff's "You Left Me Standing by the Door" is to hear a great soul voice -- gritty, impassioned and totally convincing. It's clearly the highlight of the album. And yet the remaining tracks, all composed by Cline, are probably more important in the long run. The best tunes -- "Innocent Hearts," "Rope the Moon" and "Love's So Hard" -- encompass light reggae, a moody narrative ballad and loose-limbed rhythm and blues, and all point to Cline's promise as a songwriter. Crisply produced, the album also features the work of a number of area musicians, including the Nighthawks' Mark Wenner on harmonica and vocalist Dixie Ballin. Over the years, though, the Recliners have developed a sound so vibrant and punchy that additional support is merely icing. JR. CLINE AND THE RECLINERS --
"Rope the Moon" (Apogee 1002). Appearing Friday at the Roxy.