The uniquely talented Canadian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Minnikin, has been a worker in song since the 1990s, both as a soloist and in collaboration with a range of hugely talented artists. His sound is located in country music and has a rawness of passion that one would expect from the tradition. His remarkable voice grabs you instantly. It is rich, layered, deep and full of texture and longing. Across a number of albums with various musicians and bands, his songs have shifted and developed, but all remain rooted by the same bold heart.
For a young man he is an old timer, honing his skills with Country outfit The Guthries and involved in the critically acclaimed albums Off Windmill (2000) and The Guthries (2002), championed by John Peel and Bob Harris. Here he played, performed, listened, learned and found a sound of his own that would burst forth on his solo debut Hard Feelings (2004). Emerging was an occupation of the spirit of songs that are sprung from a tradition yet profoundly unique to him. These songs are tales of captured moments, stories of lives playing out, both emotionally reactive and calmly reflective. Even in this early record, alongside tantalising dark edges can be felt the wry humour and knowing smile of a man navigating the world with all its pockmarks and pitfalls. Throughout all the albums there is integrity of intention and purpose that makes it impossible not to be fully engaged with the shape and tone of the songs. In 2006 Gabriel released Wandering Midnight to a hugely enthusiastic response from those inside and outside the music industry.
His lyrics draw you in viscerally with the depth of feeling, with vivid imagery created in snapshots, and breathtaking poetry. The songs have a dark edge of uncertainty, an undercurrent of potential spoken and unspoken troubles. They cast us into a world of both the light promise of fulfilled hope, and the shadow of scattered and ungraspable dreams.
With the 2012 release of Parakeets with Parasols Gabriel created an album of epic musical richness and depth. The lyrics bursting with potency remain, but are beautifully swelled by a full orchestra. The vast range of instruments is woven together to form a vibrant dialogue; they complement each other, occasionally sparring to draw you in. But Gabriel unquestionably knows when to pare the sound back, to rein the energy in and leave you in pools of peace where you sink fully into the songs. Female vocals are scattered throughout Gabriel’s work, reflecting a tough steeliness and tender melancholy.
Extraordinary on albums, Gabriel also takes on the role of master of ceremonies at live shows with charisma. Touring he has played with First Aid Kit, Justin Townes Earle, The Handsome Family, and Caitlin Rose among others. He has earned his stripes playing and touring with his exceptionally talented and wondrous sister Ruth as ‘The Minnikins’ supporting Jools Holland and Jose Ganzalez. Gabriel currently plays solo and with his band, full of grit and fire, The Fast Country.