|Photo by Dan Jaeger|
Past Press and Articles
"Peripatetic Prairies-born and raised troubadour, teacher, freelance
writer and raconteur Nikkel lives these days in Kitchener, Ont., but
the work on Passages is informed by a life out west and up north, by
bigger spaces, bigger times and bigger hearts from a well-remembered
past. An engagingly personal performer whose pop-hooked story songs
benefit from cleverly laid out acoustic guitar, keyboards and rhythm
section arrangements, Nikkel sounds on this recording as if he's
singing in your ear in a small and comfortable room. Strong melodies
and an affirming world view draw the listener toward a voice that is
pleasant, strong and, even on the handful of up-tempo tunes, never
"Nikkel sings about the things that define our ordinary lives - love, raising children, honouring grandparents, dealing with the crossword puzzle our days too often resemble...With a warm voice sometimes reminiscent of American Pie songwriter Don McLean...Nikkel is a personable performer."
"Still Learning Tricks - Buy this CD. Dale Nikkel is an
artist who deserves your 20 bucks for writing such smart songs. The music is soft, quite, gentle and easy to listen to. Good musicianship. The
lyrics are catchy, witty and insightful. Much more engaging than most of the new breed of quiet sensitive singer songwriters like Damien Jurado, etc. I put him in a league with Mark Erelli for heartfelt, well crafted
lyrics. Enjoy! If you get a chance to see him live, do it. He is an
entertainer as much as a singer songwriter. Smart."
" I remember hearing Gordon Lightfoot for the first time and
thinking, wow, this guy is something special. There was a warmth
there missing in many of the standard folk artists' songs and it
reached through the speakers and made a connection. So it is with
Dale Nikkel, and before you go blogging your head off, understand
that I am not comparing Nikkel to Lightfoot musically, they live in
different musical realms, on the whole, but they do both project a
common sense of humanity. You can hear it in their voices, you can
hear it in their music. So let me say this simply: Dale Nikkel the
musician is something special....this CD is a folk fanatic's dream.
You can quote me."
The easy cadence of Paul Simon colors the voice of Canada's Dale Nikkel on
his latest release, Passages. Lyrics vary from brand-new families ("These
Are the Glory Days") to backpacking adventures ("Heathrow") to
relationships both good ("Any Day") and bad ("Worrying's My Way of Loving
You"). Jangly acoustic guitars provide the sonic foundation while electric
lines and soulful organ add subtle melodic touches.
The whole album is terrific, but if we had to pick a favorite, it would be
"Everybody Knows How to Pet a Dog". Nikkel's half-spoken lyrics about his
dog Moppy morph into a look at his own life: "I wish I could run that
fast, I wish I could jump that high / If I was only that forgiving I
wouldnt be asking why". Contemporary folk fans, this ones a must-have.
"...This album is all heart without any cheese or self absorbed filler and
who's stellar production is maintained throughout...Passages is about as
good as any independent singer songwriter album can get."
Countrify slightly, add a quiet beat, and slightly amplify the whispery vulnerability of Toronto’s Royal City and you have the sound of the new Dale Nikkel. Raised in Winnipeg and living in Kitchener, Nikkel’s pace and patience come as naturally as his sentimentality. (The “second hand” of the title could refer in two ways to his mother’s old grandfather clock.) His voice is quite beautiful as he sings, more than once, on matters of piety — “Option A” specifically explores a relationship estranged from (yet still craving life in) a congregation. Where Nikkel’s going with all this is left vague enough to stay interesting, philosophical in a way few of us ever bother exploring much. And he doesn’t thank God in the liner notes. Singer/songwriter humanism without anything obvious or cheeseball. I like.
"...Nikkel bares his soul and pins his heart on his sleeve and does so
while dispensing insights, emotions and captivating images in streams of
"...Dale Nikkel has a special gift for lyrics that can raise the hairs on
your neck. Check opening cut These Are the Glory Days for an example.
Worrying's My Way of Loving You is another example as Nikkel uses a nice
falsetto to add delicacy to words..."
"Dale Nikkel is not your stereotypical Canadian, and yet he is. Canadians are pretty much accepted as nice people, nicer than most anyway, and Nikkel fits the profile. He loves life, loves love and takes things seriously, to a point. He loves to laugh, too (I am conjecturing here, having never met the man), humor sneaking through his songs at the oddest times. He sings like a soft-edged Brett Dennen, voice directed inward as is subject matter. That subject matter, in fact, is a large part of Nikkel's charm: The simple world of a growing child (Big World, Small Boy), the struggle with Faith (Option A and Lord, Is It the Beer?), the invaluable aspect of time (Grandfather's Clock), the precious intertwining of love and patience (Take the Time You Need). He equates stress of modern life to a road trip with The Speed of Sound and warns of outside influences with Listen To the Voices. He does it all somewhat effortlessly, giving the impression that each song magically appeared in final form and not bothering you with the intense struggle for the emotions and words which seldom come easy.No, Nikkel's songs are not emotion-laden, though they are emotion based. It is not in him to write angst-ridden tomes of life stripped bare. His view is more akin to that of the second wave of modern era folksingers—Gordon Lightfoot and John Denver and the like—who instead of concentrating on the negative seemed to find a positive side. Others see the Grim Reaper. Nikkel sees a need to appreciate time left. In case you haven't noticed, life is short. In a complicated world, it's that simple.Two albums preceded Second Hand: Still Learning Tricks (2002) and 2006's Passages. While I have not heard the former, I became well-acquainted with Passages while writing a review of it for FAME (here). There is a growth pattern from that to this, songwriting-wise, but Nikkel and Steve Abma, partners in crime, were smart enough to leave production values alone. Production on Passages, simple as it was, fit the music to a T and they obviously worked hard to make sure it did here, also. The music flows so smoothly from track to track that you hardly realize when background is just acoustic guitar and when it is full band. And clean? The sound is crystal clear.Dale Nikkel is of course more than just Canadian. Still, when I listen to him, I can't help but think of one-liners. Like, Dale Nikkel is so clean, soap comes to him for a bath. When the definition for Canadian was originated, they wanted to use Dale Nikkel as posterboy but he was too nice, eh? I would include a ba-dump here, but that might conjure up a strip club and I guarantee you that not one of Nikkel's songs would ever be used in one. They wanted to stamp this album 'G', but it didn't qualify—the subject matter wasn't dirty enough.
I would go on, but I think you get the drift, which is that Dale Nikkel is a musician comparable to that comedian who who not only won't but doesn't need to revert to the dark side. His songs stand on their own as slices of life as seen through his eyes and, if you're lucky to have escaped certain demons, yours as well. It is a small breath of fresh air in a polluted world. Let's face it, if we all had his vision, this world would be a better place, guaranteed."
"Right from the first track, Dale Nikkel's warm vocals and tasteful guitar
work blend superbly with honest, personable lyrics which resonate
universal themes of the human condition. With memorable chorus lines and
an excellent complement of players, Passages is a recording which will
reach across generations of listeners."
"a folk pop treasure ... James Taylor fans will swoon"
"...a true voice of the prairies."
"...in many ways the walking definition of a 'sensitive singer-songwriter',
but that's a good thing. Nikkel has an ability to speak from the heart."
Second Hand, the new album from Dale Nikkel is infused with fresh varied lyrics melded with solid guitar arrangements. Obvious attention to production detail and a fine core of musicians resonate perfectly with Dale's clean vocal styling. A great listen!"
"Dale Nikkel's Still Learning Tricks is a slice of Canadiana. Tastey and
wholesome, it combines the talent of musicians, visual artists, friends,
family, and prairie dwellers alike."
"Dale Nikkel's CD, "Still Learning Tricks", has set a new standard for
prairie folk-pop. The songwriting is mature and insightful, the
production is sophisticated, subtle, and supportive of the song, and the
packaging is a wonderful fusion of art and poetry. There is a quiet
attention to detail in all aspects of this project that clearly indicates
to me that Dale Nikkel has mastered his craft."
"Picture half-frozen strangers huddling around a bus stop, a senior
sitting alone on a park bench, or a lover's embrace. All these scenes
come alive in Dale Nikkel's captivating CD Still Learning Tricks."
"Loaded with natural talent"
"a sweet record"
"A naturally gifted songwriter and storyteller"
"Refreshing... One more reason to miss the age of vinyl"
"much too young to be writing songs with that wisdom"