Cousin Harley
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Cousin Harley

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE | AFM

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Band Americana Blues


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"Cousin Harley Lets His Roots Show"

Branching out into swamp and other stuff on his latest album

Greg Potter
Aug 4, 2006

The remarkable thing about authentic roots music—traditional country and blues, Western swing, rockabilly—is that, while it may go out of fashion, it never goes out of style.
Cousin Harley, a.k.a. Paul Pigat, knows this all too well. One of the most versatile and hardest-working musicians in town, Pigat lends his flash-attack guitar gymnastics to any number of projects, ranging from jazz to classical, ragtime to blues.
It is under the Cousin Harley banner, however—a tag bestowed upon him by songstress Carolyn Mark during their days together in the Fixin's—tat Pigat really lets fly with his 1949 Gibson ES-350, an instrument that is part guitar, part rocket launcher.
"I've been playing roots music ever since I was a kid back in Toronto, playing bars when I was 13," says Pigat, who celebrates the CD release of Cousin Harley's Hillbilly Madness! on Saturday with stand-up bassist Pete Turland and drummer Jesse Cahill; and at the Harmony Arts Festival, Aug. 7 at 7:30 p.m., at John Lawson Park's West Vancouver Foundation Stage.
"Back in Toronto there was a place called the Matador Club that opened at 2 a.m. for all-night jams," says the 36-year-old, noting that the club, a 1940s dancehall with cowboy boots nailed to the walls, was used for a k.d. lang video shoot. "Because I was quite big for my age, I was already gigging in the clubs and by the time I was 16 or 17 I was pretty entrenched in the local scene. I would go over to the Matador after my gigs and jam until six or seven in the morning.
"Big Sugar used to be the house band there, playing all these great old rock 'n-roll songs," he continues. "Bourbon Tabernacle Choir was always there. I bumped into Stompin' Tom Connors there one night. It was a really great place to hear authentic country and rockabilly and Western swing, because that's all the owners would allow you to play-nothing post-1965. It was a fantastic place to cut your teeth."
His chompers well honed, Pigat left his hometown in 1994 and headed straight to Victoria, "because I was sick and tired of touring Ontario and the East Coast. I'd just done it for so long. So I came to Victoria, then moved to Vancouver about four years ago."
Brandishing a music degree in theory from the University of Toronto, Pigat was likewise armed with a white-lightin' baritone and the aforementioned formidable guitar chops. In 1997, he put together the first "solo" version of Cousin Harley and cut a couple of EPs. Playing rhythm, lead and steel guitar and stand-up bass himself, Pigat forged his sound in the likeness of traditional hillbilly music.
For 2002's Jukin', he assembled a band but headed off for a backpacking tour of China prior to the album's release. This time, Pigat vows, he's "really gonna work" this record.
"Hillbilly Madness! is a bit different from Jukin'," he says. "The last one was more what I'd call straightforward roadhouse hillbilly music. With this one I've branched out into the swamp genre and done a lot of Travis-picking. It's very roots oriented, but I think we try and take a different approach -we try and hot-rod it up a lot more. Make it screaming fast with lots of energy. It's pretty hopped-up stuff."
Indeed, with influences ranging from the lyrical finesse of guitar greats Charlie Christian and Les Paul to the more stinging, fret-shredding styles of Link Wray, Franny Beecher and Scotty Moore, Hillbilly Madness! is a raw, rollicking and raucous affair, but not without its subtleties.
In addition to Pigat's 10 self-penned songs ("My Babe," "Whiskey Highway," "Dust Bowl Devil") and a tune from Turland ("Burnin' Bridges"), Cousin Harley tackles four covers, among them "Who Will the Next Fool Be," by sublime country crooner Charlie Rich. It's a tribute to Pigat's vocal prowess that his pipes pass the test.
With plans to tour Canada and possibly Australia next year—in addition to readying a new CD for spring 2007—Pigat has yet another project brewing, this one even more different than the rest.
"I've been thinking about doing a spooky, twangy instrumental record called Couch Potato," he says. "It would be things like the theme from Kojak and the 'Fishin' Hole Theme' from The Andy Griffith Show, only done in weird, bluesy ways. We're all children of the television, aren't we?"
- North Shore News/Vancouver Courier

"High Octane Rock 'n' Roll With a Sense of Humour"

The hillbilly trio known as Cousin Harley travels Canada, making music fans happy

Tom Hawthorn
September 7, 2005

The pale ale is flowing freely at the waterfront beer tent, even though the noon sun is barely over the yardarm. A woman in spray-on leather pants and a teeny leather bikini top, her eyes covered by sunglasses, whoops in approval, a plastic cup of beer in each hand.
At this weekend Blues Bash, the partying promises a hangover as raucous as the celebration.
On stage, a hillbilly trio—drums, guitar, stand-up bass—offers mountain music to the 400 folks gathered at Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
The band known as Cousin Harley plays a high-octane, hot-rod style of rockabilly with a generous dollop of humour: one ballad merges into Stairway to Heaven, drawing appreciative laughs.
In an age of rap and hip-hop, of pop-tarts and boy bands, and country tunes so generic as to be bland, three formally trained musicians are trying to make a living playing Hank Williams tunes.
“Everything these days is so overproduced,” argues Pete Turland, the stylish slap-bass player who was born in Northampton, England. “Hank Williams singing Your Cheatin’ Heart is as honest as the Sex Pistols singing Anarchy in the UK.”
“This is genuine. You can’t fake it,” adds Jesse Cahill, a diehard hockey fan whose frantic drumming looks like a Wayne Maki-Ted Green stick-swinging duel.
All three members of Cousin Harley studied music in school. “There’s so many rules in classical music,” says lead singer and guitarist Paul Pigat, “and there’s no rules in this stuff.”
The trio members also play jazz in various trios and combos. But when they dress up in western shirts, they become rockabilly rebels. After all, rockabilly was the punk rock of the Fifties.
“Roadhouse music,” Mr. Pigat calls it. “We play a lot of rooms in the middle of the Island. A lot of loggers and truckers and fishermen. They don’t really know this music. They like the band but they don’t really have anything to hang on to, any reference point. So, if you throw in a little Hendrix, a little Stones, you get them on your side.
“The clients are good, honest, hard-working people,” he adds, fishing another smoke from a battered Players tin cigarette holder. “Our music is rootsy, ballsy, and that’s they way they lead their lives.”
Cousin Harley has come from Vancouver for two gigs, one this free concert at Ship Point, the other an evening show at the Central Bar and Grill.
Mr. Pigat moved to British Columbia in 1994. The Toronto native was fleeing from a profitable if unsatisfying run with a Garth Brooks tribute band, leaving mid-tour in Thunder Bay, Ont.
“After a week of debaucherous lifestyle, I just couldn’t take it any more,” recalls Mr. Pigat, who turns 36 this month. He then had a long run in Victoria with a swing band called the Smokin’ Jackets. After having played every venue in town, he moved to Vancouver.
He played lap steel guitar on Neko Case’s 1997 debut album, The Virginian, making him a charter member of her Boyfriends, the ranks of which include such stellar musicians as Ron Sexsmith, Carl Newman (The New Pornographers) and Brian Connelly of Atomic 7 (ex-Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet). Mr. Pigat has also recorded with Victoria’s Carolyn Mark, whose beer-drenched hootenannies are a Sunday-afternoon delight.
Among the Cousin Harley acolytes at Ship Point this day is Bob Dalziel, 55, who wears his hair greased like Squiggy from the old Laverne & Shirley TV show. By day, he picks up garbage at city parks. By night, he is the lead singer of Rukus, a rock ‘n’ roll dance band.
“We do the hits,” says Mr. Dalziel, Cousin Harley’s acknowledged No. 1 fan. “These guys do unknown stuff and they still stir up emotion.”
Mr. Dalziel follows them on the road, snapping photographs and recording shows on a cheap tape recorder. He caught them at Island MusicFest in Courtenay this summer and is a regular at their quarterly showcases at the Quinsum Hotel on the Island Highway in Campbell River. Sometimes, he gets to share the stage.
“He’s got all the moves and the shakes,” Mr. Pigat says admiringly of Mr. Dalziel’s contributions. “He’s a great singer and I’ve never met a man more enthusiastic about rockabilly in my life. He’s the real deal.”
The trio’s first CD was Cousin Harley and the Piglets, followed by a second disc, Jukin’, released in 2003 and offering a Turland original, six Pigat originals and nine scorching covers.
The Ship Point show offers a typical Cousin Harley set. They open with Walk Don’t Run, an instrumental that has the tarmac of the parking lot covered with dancers. Then come tunes by Elvis (Rockahula from Blue Hawaii), Carl Perkins (Honey Don’t) and Merle Travis (If You Want Your Freedom PDQ, Divorce Me COD). The trio has a weakness for Mr. Travis. “Here’s the worst love song ever written,” Mr. Pigat announces before launching into a spirited rendition of Fat Gal: “Warm in the winter, shady in the summertime, that’s why I love that b - Globe and Mail



“One of the most versatile and hardest-working musicians in town, Pigat lends his flash-attack guitar gymnastics to any number of projects, ranging from jazz to classical, ragtime to blues. It is under the Cousin Harley banner, however…that Pigat really lets fly with his 1949 Gibson ES-350, an instrument that is part guitar, part rocket launcher.”
—Greg Potter, “Vancouver Courier”, Canada

“Yep, Hillbilly Madness is some slick shit, smooth enough to help fill the gap left by the passing of Mr. Ray Condo. Not too slick mind you. There is plenty of bite behind the baritone vocal stylings of Cousin Harley. Round it out with a super-solid rhythm section and a whole lot of mind-bending guitar, and you got yourself a winner. Ray would be proud.”
—Chris Walter, “The Nerve” magazine, Canada

“Vancouver guitar-wiz Paul Pigat’s rip-snortin’ roots-rock trio is a joy. Pete Turland’s slappin’ bass and Jesse Cahill’s stripped-down drumkit perfectly complement Pigat’s fiery fretwork – reminiscent of Les Paul’s subtlety crossbred with Link Wray’s stinging attack. Revved-up honky-tonk with fuel-injected R&B.”
—4-Stars, “TV Week” magazine, Canada

"Great guitar toe-tapping licks! ... one hell of a fast-paced, rockin', 15-track fever-filled album that might make the dead dance. Paul Pigat, a.k.a. Cousin Harley, showcases some amazing guitar playing and is backed by a strong band with Pete Turland on upright bass and Jesse Cahill on drums. All in all, no madness here, just a lot of fun!"
—Penguin Eggs, Canada

JUKIN' (2002)

“I think it is unlikely that I’ll review a better CD than “Jukin’” this year. It’s simply terrific and virtually every track is a highlight. Pigat is a ballsy, confident vocalist, at home equally with the forceful rockabilly that accounts for half of the CD, a trio of more laid back Western Swing tunes, a couple of unusual covers and the collection’s only slow ballad, “Louisa”. His lead guitar is stunning and the generous breaks bristle with invention and at times are lightning fast.”
—Harry Dodds, “Now Dig This” magazine, UK

“You’d think I would have heard of somebody as good as Cousin Harley before this but this is my first encounter with his music and it couldn’t be more of a pleasure! …Top notch…a straight 10 out of 10.”
—Gaby Maag-Bristol, “Blue Suede News” magazine, USA

“Paul Pigat and his rockabilly trio, Cousin Harley, play hot enough to raise sweat on a chunk of granite! …belting out warp-speed rockabilly sounds with occasional surf and klesmer overtones... likely to awaken the sleeping reptile within us all.”
—Ron Forbes Roberts, “Monday” magazine, Canada

“Rockabilly guitar that flows like water going uphill. This is a power trio that plays way too fast and way too clean. If you are an aspiring guitarist, get ready to throw your axe away. Like Les Paul, only on 78.”
—South County Fair” festival programme, Alberta, Canada


"Gretsch could not possibly be more excited about welcoming Canadian guitar ace Paul Pigat as the newest Gretsch guitarist, clinician and family member. Pigat wowed Gretsch fans at the four-day April 2009 Viva Las Vegas rockabilly event, and did so once again when he stopped by Gretsch Guitars headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Thursday, June 4, to play a dazzingly virtuoso lunchtime set that left listeners' jaws somewhere around their ankles."
—Joe Carducci, Gretsch Guitars


"Paul Pigat is not only a great player but man, what a fantastic instructor!!!"

“I make a living playing Rockabilly in Canada. I’ve bought tons of instructional Vids over the years and have to say that this is the best one I’ve seen. Paul is a great player and teacher. I’m always trying to pick up new things and there was a ton of cool tricks on this DVD."

“…Students who purchased Paul's Rockabilly Guitar DVD have been begging us for another lesson from this gifted musician and teacher…”

“…Not even my last two guitar instructors who are "old school" really got the jist of what I was looking for…This lesson beats both the Setzer DVD as well as a couple of others that I have purchased…”
- Various


2010 It's A Sin (Cousin Harley)
2009 Boxcar Campfire (Paul Pigat)
2006 Hillbilly Madness! (Cousin Harley)
2006 Knotty Pines (Knotty Pines)
2006 CBC Radio One—live recording
2002 Jukin’ (Cousin Harley)
1999 Cousin Harley and the James Gang (Cousin Harley - limited EP)
1997 Smokin’ Jackets (Smokin’ Jackets)
1996 Paul Pigat aka Cousin Harley (Cousin Harley)

Instructional DVDs:
2008 Jazzin' Up Your Guitar with Paul Pigat (
2006 Travis Picking – Hillbilly Fingerstyle Guitar with Paul Pigat (
2004 Rockabilly Hot Licks & Tricks with Paul Pigat (



Paul Pigat started playing the guitar at 11 years of age and was gigging steadily in downtown Toronto by the time he was 12. Through a lifetime dedication to live performance, recording and study he has developed into a superb guitarist, vocalist and songwriter.

Paul attended the Claude Watson School of the Arts and graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Music in theory and composition in 1992. He taught at the Eli Kassner Guitar Academy while continuing to explore live performance opportunities with various bands. Shortly thereafter Paul headed for the west coast, where he has made his home since 1994, and has earned a reputation as one of the best guitarists around.

An extremely versatile artist, with projects ranging from delta blues to classical music, he heads four diverse Vancouver bands and is in high demand as a sideman, having recorded and toured with the likes of Neko Case, Michael Kaeshammer, and Carolyn Mark, and has shared the stage with Taj Mahal, Mae Moore, Lee Aaron, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Joshua Redman, Big Sandy and His Flyrite Boys, Aaron Neville, Jim Byrnes, Zubot & Dawson, and more.

He has played performance venues ranging from small clubs to large stadiums, and festivals covering the entire spectrum of roots, blues, rockabilly and jazz music.

Pauls central touring project is his rocking hillbilly trio, Cousin Harley (a name conferred on him by Carolyn Mark), considered to be Canadas premier rockabilly and roots band. His Cousin Harley style is deeply rooted in the playing of Les Paul, Charlie Christian and Link Wray with a modern twist to create a style that is exhilarating in its intensity, yet at the same time fluid and precise. Pauls creative use of tone and dynamics is a hallmark of everything he plays, and his sense of rhythm is both sophisticated and dead on. His superb talent as a guitarist is matched by his songwriting and his vocal abilities; a warm baritone equally at home singing flat-out rockers and relaxed country swing.

Paul released Cousin Harleys second album, Jukin, to critical acclaim in 2002, followed by a year living and playing in China, before settling in Vancouver on his return to Canada in 2003.

Cousin Harleys third CD, Hillbilly Madness, was released in August 2006. Hillbilly Madness aims to capture the blistering spirit of Cousin Harleys dynamic live performances, with bassist Keith Picot (The Twisters) and drummer Jesse Cahill (Fathead Newman). The album showcases the swing, rockabilly, blues and jazz elements that make Cousin Harley truly unique in the roots music world.

Pigat's first solo acoustic album, Boxcar Campfire, was released in November of 2009 and has received high praise internationally. Featuring members of the Neko Case band as well as some of best musicians Vancouver has to offer, Boxcar Campfire is a journey through the early days of blues, folk and cabaret with a backporch vibe.

Cousin Harley's fourth release, Its A Sin, will be released in March of 2010 on Little Pig Records.

Other current projects include the Paul Pigat Trio (bebop jazz); and Pigby (acoustic swing/jazz duo with Paul Rigby).

An acclaimed educator, Pigat has produced a series of highly regarded and best selling guitar instructional DVDs, distributed in the Learn Roots Music series. He is a popular and esteemed instructor at several guitar camps each year and also presents many workshops while on tour.

A stellar performance at Viva Las Vegas in April 2009 netted Paul an endorsement with Gretsch Guitars. He is the newest addition to their roster of distinguished guitarists, and will be touring extensively for Gretsch as a clinician and workshop instructor.