by JASON WILSON- Carleton Free Press- New Brunswick- June 2008
Take a pinch of the Beatles, add a dash of Neil Young and sprinkle some Bruce Springsteen into a mixture of folk-jazz originals and you get Josh Gabriel.
You also get a guy who has—and needs—a sense of humour.
Gabriel, 30ish – he wouldn’t disclose his exact age –played the guitar, harmonica and his vocal chords at Fusion cafe in Woodstock last Thursday night.
“I call my music folk-a-soul,” he said. “It’s somewhere between Ontario folk music and jazz and soul. I don’t know where else to put it, I change every day. Folk-a-soul”.
He had the packed coffee house grooving. His set was carefully realized, focusing on his own material and promoting his new album Beyond the Stars instead of relying solely on cover songs.
He hails from Guelph, Ontario, and is a full time musician. Guelph may not seem like a long way from New Brunswick but Gabriel took the long road here—not just a long road but a bumpy one, too.
In late March, Gabriel traveled to Los Angeles. It was his first time in the United States. Gabriel has a long straggly beard, making matters interesting in the airports.
“Unfortunately when you travel with a beard such as mine you get second-looked a fair bit. When your friend looks like the epitome of a 1970’s hippie you tend to get searched a little bit more extensively.”
The trip was not a vacation. He was helping his long-time friend Rob get treatment for alcohol abuse.
“His uncle was one of the head sponsors of [alcoholics anonymous] down in Los Angeles. So we took the trip to L.A. trying to get him cleaned out, get him to see some of the sights and give him a change. He works at a Sick Kid’s hospital in Toronto. He’s a good-hearted soul…I needed to take him out and make him realize there was a rest of the world. What a better place to start than California?”
On the fifth day in the sunshine State, Gabriel received an unsettling email from his sister. His estranged mother had suffered a stroke. Coincidentally, she was in California in an RV. He and Rob went to find her.
“My mom, I hadn’t spoken to [her] in four years. Long story short; my dad passed away about six years ago of cancer. She kind of burned all of her bridges and took the insurance money and split town.”
The stroke damaged the left side of her body, leaving her with limited movement. She was unable to drive the RV back to her home in Nanaimo, B.C.
Gabriel put his mother on a plane and agreed to drive the RV back to Canada. Along the way he decided to use the RV as his tour bus. His mother, having not received the vehicle in the time she expected, made a phone call—to the cops.
“She decided to report the vehicle stolen to the Ontario Provincial Police,” he said.
Gabriel had just finished touring Quebec on his way to New Brunswick in early May.
“At that exact same moment the floods were happening in New Brunswick. We were supposed to head to New Brunswick from Quebec City… got to the New Brunswick border and were turned around because of how bad the floods were.”
Gabriel found out the police were looking for him. He called his mother. She confirmed that she had reported the RV stolen.
After he told her he had arranged to have someone return the vehicle, she requested that he provide contact information.
Gabriel said he would only provide that information if she called off the police.
“She said ‘Joshua, you don’t have a leg to stand on. And furthermore I hope the police pick you up and I hope they throw you in prison.’ Quote, unquote,” he said.
He drove the RV from Quebec to the Ottawa International airport, left it in long-term parking and mailed his mother the keys. They haven’t spoken since.
Gabriel rescheduled his New Brunswick dates and strolled into Fusion about an hour before he took the stage at 8 last Thursday night.
“It’s been a hell of a journey. A concept album is in the works,” he said. Then he laughed about his mom story. “That was the short version by the way.”
Despite the slapstick adventure, Gabriel keeps smiling. He says he loves performing and meeting new people– especially in the Maritimes.
“People in the Maritimes are the epitome of what Canada is all about.”
Fusion Cafe is slated to have live music every Thursday night at 8 throughout the summer.
Little specks of dirt: Dave Gordon: Jewish Independent WeeklyVancouver
By: Dave Gordon: April 2008
Recently, Josh Gabriel released Beyond the Stars, a 14-track recording, four years in the making. The 28-year-old Torontonian said that the CD's music and lyrics were inspired by autobiographical grief: the cheating girlfriend, living in a cramped basement apartment and raucous bandmates. "Messy lives tend to make for great writing," Gabriel told the Independent.
Beyond the Stars is a rollicking blend of folk rock mixed with blues twang, all laid out on a shifting rhythmic bed of "gee-tar" grooves. The tales are sometimes reflective, sometimes hopeful, but always endearing. It's being well received among critics and fans alike.
Gabriel's new CD was released independently, which has allowed him to assert his own creative freedoms: the disc was created to mimic vinyl, like an old 45-revolutions-per-minute record, with the indented black grooves and paper label.
Though he admits to being influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle and Pearl Jam, his new CD contains aural flavors akin to Blues Traveller, Dave Matthews Band, Neil Young and Maroon Five. The language Gabriel weaves around this musical journey is a poetic invocation of emotional earthquakes and subconscious rainstorms.
His first CD, Sunday Night and Monday Morn (2003), included 11 original songs recorded in a small bedroom. The title track was inspired by a poem written by his father, when Gabriel and his brother were in foster care. Gabriel's upcoming tour includes dates in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
The cover of Beyond the Stars shows a silhouette of Gabriel's head against a backdrop of outer space. For him, the imagery is a metaphor for humility.
"As for Beyond the Stars," he said, "as the world is as vast as it is, and as many people as we fill it with, we are still a little speck of dirt."
Dave Gordon is a freelance writer. His website is DaveGordonWrites.com.