The lonely road traveled by the country folk troubadour has become increasingly populated over these last few years. You can’t turn on the radio – well, CBC or your local college joint – without hearing pedal steel, and there are enough tears in the beers to make La Fin du Monde taste like Coors Light.
The once radiant brown and orange autumnal hues have become incredibly grey.
It was fifteen years ago when Gabriel Minnikin and the rest of the Guthries first delivered their inspired take on roots rock, so it’s not surprising that Manchester based artist was unwilling to simply create another record of singer / songwriter, country sadsackers. Sure, at the core these songs could be sung be a lonely man in a bar, but Parakeets With Parasols is enriched with the contributions of hundreds of artists and uplifting orchestration that is more Beatles than The Band.
Minnikin still sings of whiskey bottles, broken hearts and travel, but there is something more majestic and hopeful when those themes are paired with strings, horns, reeds and brass. The gin joint piano and horns of “New Orleans” are a fantastic match for a trip to the Bayou, one that probably shouldn’t work with the poppy pace of “Three”, the gentle swell of the banjo, mandolin and harmonies of “Arkansas” or the Spiritualized space collages added on the standout “The Hand That Feeds You”, but Gabriel’s world weary voice is the bridge that connects each of the ideas he explores.
This record is not so different from the massive undertaking of Halifax’s Rich Aucoin’s last effort, just influenced by Gram Parsons and Rufus Wainright instead of Justice and Daft Punk. It’s a celebration of community, but one approached with a laser focus and executed with precision. Minnikin controls his ambition masterfully and shows considerable restraint to ensure the sweeping strings, pop nuggets and hints of space rock never drift too far a field or cloud his original from his vision. In most cases, too many cooks spoil the broth, but Parakeets With Parasouls is more of a fantastic musical potluck, with Minnikin acting as the gracious host.