On Checking In -- Jon Gailmor's sixth release in 27 years of creating music in and about Vermont -- the singer-songwriter musically illustrates the textbook he could write about being a successful performer and artist-in-residence in a small, rural state.
For this 13-song collection, Gailmor has penned catchy, heartfelt tunes on such diverse subjects as Vermont Town Meeting Day; his mother, wife and daughter; dogs; moose; the history of his adopted hometown of Elmore; water quality; and the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. But it's not just his songwriting that impresses. Working from their Charlotte studio, engineers Chuck Eller and Lane Gibson created a seamless musical experience from start to finish. Each song has a different texture, and nearly all have an interesting musical turn or two.
"Say It Now" -- a number currently being performed by vocal group Social Band as part of its "Vermont Composer Series" -- features Gailmor's multi-tracked voice. It's a fine showcase for his chops; the result is like his own personal choir. There won't be any Vance Gilbert or Jonathan Edwards comparisons for this effort: From party-boy yelling to sweetly soulful singing, Gailmor has his bases covered.
Checking In also delivers on the instrumental end. Several well-known Vermont musicians sit in, giving the project an all-star feel. Eller takes a break from tweaking the faders to contribute keyboards, while David Gusakov, Stacy Starkweather, Jeff Salisbury, Banjo Dan & Willy Lindner and Tom Mackenzie all lend their considerable talents. Don Schabner -- who shares production credits on this album with Gailmor -- adds tasteful classical guitar to two of my favorite tracks, "Ma" and "Seeds of Home."
You Must Have Known" is dedicated to Gailmor's daughter Micaela and features a full-blown horn section. Micaela herself sings on the cleverly titled track "Terrierism." That tune is about Lola, a Circus Smirkus canine celebrity.
Some might be put off by the Billy Joel-style slickness of some of Checking In's orchestration, but you still can't help but be wowed by how it all comes together. Gailmor has more than enough experience to know exactly what he wants everything to sound like, and how to get there. Long may he play!