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Gabriel Minnikin - Hard Feelings

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 13 / 7 / 2004



Gabriel Minnikin - Hard Feelings
Label: Gabriel Minnikin
Format: CD

intro

Dark and eerie, and outstanding debut solo offering from Gabriel Minnikin, former singer with alt.country legends the Guthries


This is the debut solo album by Gabriel Minnikin, but his name will be familiar to those who held alt. country legends the Guthries in high regard. Minnikin’s sister, Ruth, also a former member of that band and a current member of the Heavy Blinkers, also features on this album. There’s a dark, eerie feel to these songs which comes as no surprise considering Minnikin’s past; his former addictions and losses haunt these songs. Minnikin is in his late 20's but you’d never tell from this collection. For those unfamiliar with the Guthries the first surprise will be his giant grizzly bear growl of a voice. Without a doubt it’s an acquired taste but stick with it and it’s well worthwhile. It’s like Lee Marvin singing the songs of Lee Hazlewood with Nick Cave lending a hand at times. The sound is very organic; it feels like these songs were born in a run down shack in some dense forgotten woods; that they were given life in the kind of place you only go to in nightmares. And maybe they were. It’s a dense sound Minnikin produces; he’s helped out by a couple of dozen of musicians and singers. Although he plays both acoustic and electric guitars, piano, Hammond organ, autoharp, mandolin and glockenspiel there are string and brass sections all adding to the collage of sound and that’s without mentioning the banjo, accordion and pedal steel which is scattered throughout the songs. The album starts with the title track, ‘Hard Feelings’, which from the off sets out Minnikin’s stall nicely. In spite of all the darkness surrounding most of these songs, Minnikin never forgets to dress his songs with the most memorable tunes. With vocals which are so different it would be easy to lose interest if one didn’t find Minnikin’s voice appealing but his way with melodies (which can be breathtakingly beautiful at times) keeps the attention until those vocals grow with each further listen into those of an old, familiar friend who has been down on his luck. Lyrically it’s not all doom and gloom. The second track, ‘Lullaby’, is especially touching and the picture one conjures up of a giant of a man with this big, deep voice singing this gentle song only makes it all the more poignant. There’s humour too. ‘Where’s My Tea’ is possibly the only time the distress of waking up and finding you are out of tea has been put into song and when the song in question has its melody picked out on a glockenspiel and, with clarinet and accordion adding to the gentle sound. it turns the song into a highlight on an album where each track has something to offer and is that little bit different. Space prevents us from listing all the musicians and singers on this album, but special mention should be made of the contribution of Ruth Minnikin. Ruth features on most of the songs adding accordion and mandolin but most importantly she adds some simply gorgeous backing vocals. Her angelic tones contrast extremely well with those of her brother and add lightness to the songs. They are so good in fact that the idea of an album where Minnikin shares vocal duties with a female is something which springs to mind when listening to the first few tracks on the album. But it soon becomes apparent that Minnikin has probably had the same thought. Halfway through the album Minnikin duets with Becky Siamon on ‘The Worst Shot’ ( a heartbreaking tale of a relationship falling apart with just piano and strings highlighting the pain) and in the absence of sister Ruth on the final song, ‘What Went Wrong’, Jill Barber adds the by now familiar female vocals. There’s something very appealing about the deepness of Minnikin’s voice offset with a female voice and an album of duets with Ruth must surely be on the agenda for a future project. It’s obvious really, but the song, ‘Blinking Heavy’, has more than a shade of the sound of Ruth’s band as well as nearly the same name as it and it proves that Gabriel is much more than a one trick pony. That one song alone is more than enough to have us urging the Minnikins to make an album together. Although I liked the Guthries I was no more than curious as to what this solo album would sound like. I had no expectations really. I thought it might be a good, solid album but had no idea it would be this exceptional. It throws up new surprises with each listen and a day hasn’t passed since receiving it that I haven’t listen to at least a couple of tracks. A more than pleasant surprise and let’s hope we hear a lot more of Minnikin in the future.



Track Listing:-
1 Hard Feelings
2 Lullaby
3 Wheres My Tea
4 All I Got
5 Why
6 Closer To Me
7 The Worst Shot
8 Cloud Ten
9 Train Wreck
10 Nothing Left
11 Blinking Heavy
12 What Went Wrong



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