Layers of sound produce a big, bold and sometimes beautiful thing.
Canadian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Minnikin has, for his fifth release, created a big sound. Minnikin has surrounded himself with, deep breath, four band members, no less than five female vocalists, including sister Ruth, plus Jeffery Mosher and Jody Lyne from The Mellotones who, along with Robbie Crowell & David Christensen, bring their brass and woodwind skills to the party.
So, with a grand total of 13 musicians and vocalists to add to Minnikin’s distinctive warble it is no surprise that the resulting album ‘Sweet Nothings’ is a big, bold statement from the start. ‘Pretty Little Ditty’ opens proceedings with a fast and furious slice of rock and roll. Piano, organ, brass, big harmonies; Minnikin throws the kitchen sink at it and, after 3:10 it is over almost as soon as the ears have adjusted.
Having employed all those musicians Minnikin employs them to create what feels like at times an almost experimental bent to proceedings. ‘The Downtrodden’ for example feels like a piece of drama, a small slice of theatre interspersed with various musical interludes that range from explosions of brass to guitar and organ solos and all with the album’s ever-present defining soaring female harmonies.
For the vinyl lovers out there this is the way of Side A. Reach track 7, flip the virtual record over, and there is a subtle change of direction. Those big dramatic sounds here morph into something more akin to classic sounding Americana if indeed there is such as thing.
It is no surprise that ‘Under Her Heels’ has been chosen as lead single from the album. It kicks off a run of three tracks that stand out with their almost 60s sounding melodic janglings and guitar-driven rhythms that are, by a country mile, the most commercial sounding songs to be found here. This trio of songs, completed by ‘Night Lights’ and ‘Nicotine Sun’ are so distinctively different from the rest of the album it is almost as though they belong on a separate EP.
It is fitting that the album closes with ‘Blood Harmony’, a track that grows from a quiet vocal opening into something much more epic and dramatic with a killer banjo and guitar weaving in and out as the song swells into something akin to an early Eagles track. With ‘Sweet Nothings’ it feels as though Minnikin has been on a journey, some missteps at first, hitting his stride midway through until reaching a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.