CINDY LEE BERRYHILL probably recorded her debut album "Who's Gonna Save the World?" a few years too early. This San Diego singer-songwriter boasts a distinctive nasal voice and a witty, passionate way with words. She doesn't quite have full control of either gift yet, however. Her voice tends to stray painfully off key and into heavy-handed emphasis, and her writing goes for the obvious often enough to blunt the better lines.
Moreover, her new album is so loaded with Dylanisms that it comes across as derivative. If Berryhill had waited a few years to record, she might have acquired the discipline to pass up the easy laughs and cheap pathos; she might have learned to trust the understated irony also present here.
Instead of the sledgehammer leftism of "Damn, I Wish I Was a Man" or "This Administration," she might have concentrated on the personal portraiture of "She Had Everything." Instead of the third-rate "My Back Pages" imitation of her title tune, she might have rooted herself in the traditionalism of her own "Ceallaigh Green."
CINDY LEE BERRYHILL -- "Who's Gonna Save the World?" (Rhino RNLP 70834). Opening for Holly Beth Vincent Friday at the 9:30 Club.