Music Review: Gabriel Minnikin - Parakeets With Parasols

I first reviewed Gabriel Minnikin's new album back in December, when he was making some rare appearances in the province. The disc was done, and in limited release at the shows and such, but now it's getting a proper release. It's such a good one, I thought I'd print the review again, as an incentive for you folks to check it out.

Gabriel Minnikin was one of the founders of the beloved Halifax band The Guthries, and made two albums with them in the early 2000's that remain alt-country classics. That band was like an all-star team, as each member has gone on to bring us more grand music over the years. The other members were Dale Murray, Matt Mays, Serge Samson, Brian Murray, and Gabe's sister Ruth. Prime stuff. Since then, Gabriel has moved to England and continues his career, and keeps in touch with his Maritime roots as well.

GabrielMinnikin-Cover-Tile2.jpg
The country style has stayed in his music, but when was the last time you heard a country album that included a full orchestra and choir? Luscious ooo's, and flutes? Kettle drums alongside liberal use of pedal steel? Probably never. I can't say I've heard anything remotely like Parakeets With Parasols, but it's gorgeous, and finds the talented singer-songwriter sounding like the bastard child of Gram Parsons and Rufus Wainwright. The multi-talented performer chimes in on everything but chimes: piano, accordian, synth, all manners of keys, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, autoharp, guitar, bass, and various percussion pieces. But that's just the start of the rich orchestration, and I've rarely heard such a tremendous studio mix of classical instruments and modern ones. The recording itself is deep and full, the strings especially sounding like you're in the front row at the symphony. There's some magical engineering here.

Then comes Minnikin's sorrow-drenched voice, rough and weary, the same kind of emotion you'll hear in Lucinda Williams' singing. Machine Guest sees him describing a tremendous singer, wowing an audience on stage, but fatally flawed as a human: "Those cigarettes, they suit you best/and so does that whiskey breath." More semi-tragic characters come into the picture, like the friend in Halifax Blues, drunk with a car full of guns, arrested before anything happens: "You should listen to your own advice and get yourself some help/we'll all be here for you when you need us most."

Minnikin's musical adventures also see him down in Louisiana, for the track New Orleans. It features a rollicking horn arrangement, like the kind Allen Toussaint put together for The Band's Rock Of Ages tour and album, with banjo and pedal steel chugging along as well, plus a killer piano solo. Minnikin is simply brimming with ideas on the album, and has created an epic of sound and words.

more »

Latest East Coast Music Reviews

Moncton music pioneer Jean-Guy Melanson of Missing Lynks passes
Moncton music pioneer Jean-Guy Melanson of Missing Lynks passes
Dec 18, 2:35 PM

News has arrived of the passing of long-time Moncton musician Jean-Guy Melanson this past Tuesday, Dec. 16. He was one of the pioneers of the Moncton rock 'n' roll scene from the 1960's and 1970's, as a member of the... more »

Vogue Dots one of the N.B. music success stories of 2014
Vogue Dots one of the N.B. music success stories of 2014
Dec 17, 3:11 PM

One of the nice surprises of this year's music scene in the province has been the emergence of a new group, featuring Saint John's Babette Hayward. The young singer-songwriter made a mark with her rich voice and engaging lyrics when... more »

Marie-Jo Therio captivates on new live album
Marie-Jo Therio captivates on new live album
Dec 12, 3:41 PM

The wonderful and engaging Moncton native doesn't make albums so much, she makes artistic projects. As she showed on her last studio collection, Chasing Lydie, showed how interested she is in mixing dialogue and sound with music, also story lines... more »

First Nations music collection reveals lost classics of '60's - '80's
First Nations music collection reveals lost classics of '60's - '80's
Dec 10, 3:51 PM

Aboriginal music in North America has faced an uphill battle in recent years. Despite music being a vibrant and integral part of the community, it gets little support outside of First Nations, and mostly flies under the radar. When we... more »

Free To Grow offers a mix of influences for debut disc
Free To Grow offers a mix of influences for debut disc
Dec 8, 3:19 PM

Most groups making a debut album have young members, all about the same age, experience and taste. Free To Grow, with members from the Fredericton area and western N.B., doesn't fit that formula, and its one of the strengths of... more »

More East Coast connections to Emmylou Harris highlighted in box set
More East Coast connections to Emmylou Harris highlighted in box set
Dec 5, 3:31 PM

I started writing about Emmylou Harris and her connection to the Maritimes a couple of days ago, highlighting a reissue of her classic Christmas album, Light of the Stable from 1979. It was produced by Halifax native Brian Ahern. Now,... more »

View all reviews for December 2014 »

About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

Share this review