(Higher Road Records, CD, digital download)
Rutland County rocker Duane Carleton has been cranking out all manner of original electric and acoustic music since the early 1990s. With A Girl Like That — which, if I've counted right, is his 18th recording — he shows no sign of slowing down. Dedicated to the memory of Chris Franco, a beloved Killington chef who died suddenly last year at age 49, the album features 11 original songs loaded with familiar guitar riffs, great vocals and some potential rock anthems.
Let's start with the album art. Cover girl Brittany Schuessler sets the scene. The front cover is set in a genre that could be called "cartoon idyllic," with Schuessler done up to look like one of Sarah Palin's soccer moms. The back cover is considerably more suggestive.
The music follows suit: There's everything here from sensitive ballads to kick-ass rockers. Carleton is signaling that everything is not necessarily as it appears. The whole shebang needs to be listened to with a sense of humor, tongue firmly set in cheek. Schuessler is featured in some additional entertaining poses on the CD itself, sadly not visible when the disc is playing.
The title track leads off the album with a vibe that recalls John Mellencamp circa 1985. And that's a compliment. Carleton knows how to craft classic rock-and-roll songs. Take, for example, "18 Years (and a Moment)," a catchy little anthem that has shades of Tom Petty and Burton Cummings; and "Love and Nothing," one of the album's rare ballads. Both are personal favorites. Carleton's years of experience absorbing and performing great rock music in central and southern Vermont have clearly enriched his songwriting.
Carleton is undeniably a solid vocalist and master of many guitar styles. Whether he's doing a short fill riff, chopping away at a catchy funk rhythm, strutting jazzy lines — as in the instrumental "Killing Time" — or taking his Les Paul on a furious tear, the playing is meticulous, muscular and entertaining. Carleton's varied approaches and musical textures include nods to guitar icons from Keith Richards to Duane Allman to Randy Bachman, and he does them proud.