Gabriel Minnikin may be a solo musician, but he commands an orchestra of sound. Literally. For his latest endeavour, Parakeets With Parasols, Minnikin has a full orchestra backing him up, along with numerous other guest players, that all work to give each and every song the feel of an epic.
On his own, Minnikin has a very strong vocal presence, his voice rich and deep, kind of like Leonard Cohen if he was a better singer. While his roots are primarily in country, it would be hard (mostly) to call this a purely country record. It’s got a very potent chamber-folk or baroque-pop feel, with some roots and country thrown in from time to time.
The addition of a large orchestra gives the sounds of Parakeets With Parasols an extra layer of richness to enjoy, like the sounds of timpani, horns, violas, flutes and more. Nowhere is the sound quite as rich as the opener “Land of Language,” that acts almost like an overture for the rest of the album. It slowly builds up sound, actually showcasing the sound of a Moog synthesizer briefly before sweeping in the rest of the orchestra. “Machine Guest” and “The Hand That Feeds You” continue along this path, also showcasing the talent of Ruth Minnikin, Gabriel’s sister, who provides some great backing vocals as well as accordion.
The next batch of songs lean more towards a roots aesthetic. “Arkansas” is far less orchestral than previous, incorporating acoustic guitar and harmonica. “Cold Day” shows that, while Minnikin is now based in Manchester, he hasn’t forgotten his east-coast roots. The intensity of the song is extremely refreshing. And “Halifax Blues” (even more of a tribute to the Maritimes) hums with the sound of pedal steel and accordion.
“New Orleans” feels like a totally different beast, incorporating some more much prevalent horns and some slightly modified vocals. “A Christmas At Sea” is a much heavier song despite the general light-heartedness the titled holiday usually inspires, making for an interesting contrast. And the innocuously-titled “A Tune” turns out to be perhaps the darkest-sounding song on the album.
Parakeets With Parasols is a vast, majestic and poetic spot on Gabriel Minnikin’s discography. Highly recommended listening.
Top Tracks: “Land of Language”; “New Orleans”; “Three”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*