Paul Pigat aka Cousin Harley
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Paul Pigat aka Cousin Harley

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE | AFM

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Band Folk Rock


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"Boxcar Campfire - "Be transported to an era that only a great storyteller such as Paul Pigat could bring to life!!""

If Paul Pigat's rockabilly work in Cousin Harley is considered as one end of the musical spectrum, then his release of "Boxcar Campfire" is the total polar opposite. The Vancouver-based guitarist delivers twelve cuts on this set that are deeply-rooted in an era of the blues that brings to mind down-and-out grifters, freight-hopping hobos, and fellows that are always one step ahead of the law.

The songs on this set take a look at Pigat's more reflective and introspective side. Arrangements are, for the most part, sparse, altho he is joined on bass by Tommy Babin, Barry Mirochnick on drums, and Paul Rigby on mandolin.

Pigat shows off his banjo chops on "Dig Me A Hole," to bury all his ex-lover's past indiscretions. The lively "Corn Liquor" weaves a yarn of a man who's had a bit too much, urging others to "drink with caution and have a good time!" The light-heartedness continues with Paul, accompanied only on slide dobro, on the sly-and-sexy "Sweet Tooth."

Paul's introspective side shows on "Troubled Mind," an ode to a love affair that has reached its end. And, the foreboding tone of "Nowhere Town" recalls a man who's lost at love and literally feels he has no place left to go.

We had two favorites, too. "Lonesome Whistle" is given an unusually upbeat arrangement here, augmented by mandolin from Paul Rigby. And, in "John Henry Part 2," this man "never drove a spike," opting instead for a more violent lifestyle, as the murderer of his spouse!

Grab a seat around the "Boxcar Campfire," pass the sardines and soda crackers while the Sterno fire heats the pork and beans and be transported to an era that only a great storyteller such as Paul Pigat could bring to life!! Until next time....Sheryl and Don Crow.

(FEBRUARY 12, 2011) - Nashville Blues Society (2011)

"Boxcar Campfire - "A talent for crafting memorable songs""

Listening to Paul Pigat's Boxcar Campfire, you could be excused for mistaking the Canadian singer-songwriter Paul Pigat for veteran roots rocker Dave Alvin. Like the former guitarist and writer for the Blasters, Pigat has a rough but expressive baritone voice and a talent for crafting memorable songs that easily draw upon Woody Guthrie-style folk, traditional country, blues and early rock 'n roll. Pigat rolls along at full speed through 'Lonesome Whistle', has a few laughs on 'Corn Liquor' and shows a thoughtful, gentle side on both the solo acoustic 'Troubled Mind' and the exceedingly pensive 'Storm Song'. He also plugs in his guitar, albeit for just one track on 'Tortured', which fits a slow, salty blues melody to its lonesome lyrics. With some five albums to his credit, Paul Pigat isn't nearly as well known as Alvin, but more triumphs like 'Boxcar Campfire' could change all that.

- Alan Sculley. - Colorado Springs Independant (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "Rockabilly isn't dead - it just needs the right guys to play it""

Vancouver native Paul Pigat might well be considered a "guitarist's guitarist," with his innate ability to drop a blues riff, write a classical piece, or rip off a Wes Montgomery lick with undeniable ease. As such, his "alter ego," Cousin Harley, is one of the premier rockabilly outfits on the scene today, a project that Paul has spearheaded for the last twelve years or so. The latest from Cousin Harley is entitled "It's A Sin," on Little Pig Records that'll transport you back to the days of poodle skirts, DA's, and Saturday-night rumbles. Paul handles the vocals, guitar, and steel guitar, and is joined by bassist Keith Picot and drummer Jesse Cahill. This one is thirteen original cuts of vintage rockabilly, spiked with a few way-cool period instrumentals.

According to Paul, rockabilly is a genre' much like the blues in that its chords and progressions are relatively easy to learn, but difficult to master, and one in which everyone involved has to be on the same page. There's no problem with any of that on this set, as these three guys could smoke the chrome off the fins of a '57 Chevy. A man on the run for "messin' with another man's wife" catches that downbound train run by "Mr. Conductor Man," characterized by a rapid-fire, chugging locomotive beat. "Beaver Fever" and "I'll Keep My Old Guitar" have a vintage Les Paul feel, while "Hoss' Hoedown" is another instrumental that shows off Paul's fleetness-of-fingers.

We had two favorites, too. A man with the "dirty road beneath my shoes" who's "got nothin' else to lose" looks for a friend at the bottom of "2 Bottles Of Booze." And, the set closes with "Spaghetti No Sauce," a guns-blazing instrumental that hearkens back to the Ennio Morricone soundtracks to the Clint Eastwood "Man With No Name" movies. As well as red-hot guitar, Paul excels on the steel guitar, where astute listeners will pick up on a smidgen of "Kaw-Liga."

Rockabilly isn't dead--it just needs the right guys to play it, and Paul Pigat and Cousin Harley are the perfect ensemble! Grab your baby and get ready to rumble with "It's A Sin!" Until next time.....Sheryl and Don Crow.

(FEBRUARY 12, 2011) - Nashville Blues Society (2011)

"Boxcar Campfire - "His raw talent exceeds my comprehension""

Born with a sophisticated jazz talent, a rockabilly heart and sleek hobo vibes, Paul Pigat brings introspective country blues with a slight touch of cabaret that will dig deep into your soul.

Meet Cousin Harley: the rocking hillbilly façade of Paul Pigat, an accomplished and extremely unique guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Pigat began playing the guitar at the age of 11, and by age 12, he was already picking up gigs throughout all of Toronto. Pigat graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Music majoring in theory and composition, and shortly after, taught at Eli Kassner Guitar Academy. Pigat continued to explore live performance opportunities and decided to head to the west coast of Canada, which has been his home since 1994.

Throughout his life, Pigat has been influenced by a diverse range of music. He has collaborated with music artists in areas such as hot-rod rockabilly, country blues and bebop jazz. His raw talent exceeds my comprehension and I think he deserves more exposure and credit for his sweet serenading.

This genre of music is not for everyone, but if you are a true fan of Hank Williams, Tom Waits or Townes Van Zandt, this music is definitely for you! This album features Pigat crafting genius streams of word and song, tying smooth vocals together that will keep you listening and wanting more. Pigat focuses on different areas of life such as love, loss and partying, helping all of his listeners and fans relate in one way or another. The acoustic guitar alone speaks for his musical capabilities, especially on “All Over Now.” Pigat’s creative use of tone and dynamics is a trademark in everything he plays and his sense of rhythm is savvy and dead-on. This perfect, warm baritone for at-home listening is guaranteed to satisfy your craving soul.

Four stars.

- Tracy Johnson, March 5, 2011 - (2011)

"Boxcar Campfire - "Will sound just as timeless years from now""

Best known as his alter ego, inbred rockabilly hero Cousin Harley, Paul Pigat is actually a man with a plethora of songs spanning nearly every musical genre. On Boxcar Campfire, Pigat reaches down into his country soul to deliver an album of familiar, traditional country tales, told in his unique 21st century voice.

From the outset, this disc pays homage to the rocker in Pigat, calling to mind the Grateful Dead’s psychedelic country and western side with an intriguing take on Big Sugar's “All Over Now.” Later, Pigat turns traditional country on tracks “Corn Liquor” and “Sweet Tooth.” The highlight of Boxcar Campfire is the dobro-charged “Troubled Mind,” beautiful track that will sound just as timeless years from now.

Written by Fred Adams,
03/05/2011 - (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "Just plain fun to listen to""

I love and respect bands that include an upright bass. I love the unmistakable sound a feel it gives the music, and I respect anyone who will lug that beast around from gig to gig!! Of course the bass is only part of what I love about Cousin Harley’s disc It’s A Sin. Think a big dose of Stray Cats best stuff along with some of the surf guitar sound of Dick Dale, and a dose of steel guitar and you have an idea what this awesome disc has in store for ya! Cousin Harley basically IS Paul Pigat, a whiz on guitar, who also provides vocals, produced the disc and wrote most of the material. Cousin Harley is Paul’s rockabilly alter-ego. He is joined by bass slapping Keith Picot and drummer Jesse Cahill. Paul also plays under his own name, and released a slower more subdued disc of tunes called Boxcar Campfire in 2009 which has Paul exploring country blues. With a preview like that where would you guess the band is from; North Carolina, Texas, perhaps even California? No, Western Canada. Good music knows no boundaries.

Paul also plays under his own name, and released a slower more subdued disc of tunes called Boxcar Campfire in 2009 which has Paul exploring country blues. He also fronts a jazz group called The Paul Pigat Trio playing vintage be-bop and jazz standards a la Charlie Christian and Les Paul. You’ve got to be kidding me!!

It’s A Sin is just plain fun to listen to. It is packed with 13 great tunes, including a few high energy instrumentals. Got a party coming up? How about rockin out to Beaver Fever, or Swingin’ Like A Mofo, or perhaps have an order of Spaghetti No Sauce. One of my favorites on the disc is the only tune not penned at least in part by Pigat, I’ll Keep My Old Guitar, by Adolf Hofner who had a band called Adolf Hofner and His Texans back in the 30’s and 40’s. (Obviously Pigat is a student of his craft!) I love the chorus of the tune:

Women O Women O everywhere, no matter where they roam; there they go, but in the end, they will do you wrong. You can talk about your hot redheads, you can talk about your blue-eyed blonds you can talk about your brunettes, but I’ll keep my old guitar.

If you like good music, or just about any genre, check out Paul Pigat, but especially this awesome disc!!

by Don Zelazny. - (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "A darn good dose of unbridled, kicking rock ’n’ roll""

If you’re looking for a darn good dose of unbridled, kicking rock ’n’ roll, Cousin Harley’s glad to oblige on its latest high-octane release, “It’s a Sin.”

And it would be a sin if true rock fans didn’t get an earful of this Vancouver-based trio.

The “Cuz” is singer/songwriter/guitar gymnast Paul Pigat, bolstered by the rough-tough rhythm section of bassist Keith Picot and drummer Jesse Cahill. One fan in Holland dubbed the band “the Motorhead of rockabilly.” Can’t argue with that.

On this latest, the three gallop, stampede, boogie, two-step and swing their way through rockabilly, psychobilly, surf-rock, western swing and punk. It’s as if Pigat and his mates jammed Gene Vincent and Bill Haley through a Stray Cats/Cramps/Southern Culture on the Skids blender while adding Clash and Reverend Horton Heat spices.

Throughout, the playing is fevered, raucous and abandoned as the three resemble Chet Atkins playing Bakersfield country, Johnny Cash rocking spaghetti Western soundtracks or the Sex Pistols playing a barn dance.

– Eric Feber. - The Virginian Pilot, VA (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "Pigat picks with abandon and assurance""

Paul Pigat is a believer in the Big Twang. Based in Vancouver, he plays guitar like he was born under a bad neon sign in Memphis. Pigat is the guitarist, composer, and bandleader of Cousin Harley, a roots/rockabilly combo backed by string bassman Keith Picot and drummer Jesse Cahill. Pigat picks with abandon and assurance, rolling out rollicking rockabilly licks, old-timey country double-stops, and pedal steel-style voicings that make It’s a Sin one hot little number. But this is much more than just a rockabilly revival record. The songlist also includes twangy twists on the theme along with other sounds of the era, including proto-surf romps, spaghetti-western soundtracks, and Pigat’s stylish Western swing and jump blues themes. Cousin Harley is a tight combo. Not only is their music spot-on, they’re obviously having a great time playing it!

– Michael Dregni - Vintage Guitar (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "Rockabilly at it’s very finest""

Paul Pigat is Cousin Harley, yes it is true. An alter ego, Motorhead Rockabilly at it’s very finest. Throw in some Dick Dale, the Ventures and what you get is a stripped down form of rock and roll that mixes in blues, country and really is a genre busting form of music.
The best example of this would be the final cut on the release, ‘Spaghetti No Sauce’ it hits the ground running and you will be left looking for waves and your surf board but not on the earth but on a distant planet where only few dare to go.

The title track ‘It’s A Sin’ rides in on an old steam powered railroad train that has been juiced up enough to make it dangerous. As it pulls into the station we hear a Johnny Cash type of voice pleading for some form of intervention to be divinely laid upon his lady because she has no room in her heart or life for him or anyone else, and has no first-hand knowledge of herself at all and it’s a sin.

‘Spooks’ is similar to the great instrumentals of The Ventures and the late great, Danny Gatton wherein ‘Cuz’ paints us a picture of a landscape at night that is alive with life, death and after-life all enjoying and sharing the streets and co-existing in harmony, sweet harmony.

One might hear the influence of Carl Perkins and others in the snubbingly titled “I’ll Keep My Old Guitar‘. Here we are treated to some wonderful lyrical loyalty, as he expresses his preference to his guitar over fly by night ladies of all sorts.

No release of this sort would be complete without a nice minor blues number. Cuz gives us that with ‘The Ballad of El Swartho’, a catchy title and really fine instrumental that allows us to see the varied influences and styles that make Cousin Harley’s ‘It’s A Sin’ release a fun filled romp on them frets! – Chef Jimi Patricola - Blues 411 (2011)

"Boxcar Campfire - "A pleasing balance between dark and light""

In last month’s issue, Paul Pigat appeared in his guise as Cousin Harley on his new album It’s a Sin, dealing some fairly incendiary rockabilly, merciless rock ‘n’ roll and elegant Les Paul-styled pop. Released concurrently with It’s a Sin, Boxcar Campfire bears Pigat’s birth name, more acoustic than electric guitar, some fancy fingerpicking, a decided bent towards country and Delta blues, an atmosphere alternately laid-back and tense and some striking vocals steeped in a wry, weathered, unsentimental perspective born of experience in life its own self. In case you didn’t get the drift, it’s also one terrific album—certainly an ideal counterpart to the fiery It’s a Sin, but in its own right a thoughtful, soulful keeper of a long player.

Seven of the dozen songs are Pigat originals and two of the other five are Pigat co-writes, so his stamp really is all over the tunes here. The concept is so artfully executed that he even makes Hank Williams’s combination train/prison song “Lonesome Whistle” his own by forsaking the dirge arrangement favored by Hank (and many others who have covered it) and opting instead for a brisk pace, chugging on down the line in a lively bluegrass arrangement featuring Paul Rigby tearing off an impressive, fleet-fingered mandolin solo, Pigat weaving some deft, circuitous runs on guitar and adding a bluesy, energetic vocal to boot. Now you have no reason ever again to listen to Phish’s version of this song, and for this we should all be thankful.

Boxcar Campfire offers a pleasing balance between dark and light moments specifically relating to men and women together (or apart, as the case may be). Within these broad parameters, Pigat offers variety aplenty. His “Dig Me a Hole” recounts the figurative burial of an unfaithful paramour’s duplicity and betrayals in a shambling arrangement heavy on sinister overtones, with Pigat’s banjo adding a taste of country and his growling vocal enhancing the lyrics’ self-lacerating recriminations in a disturbing scenario evoking comparison to some of Tom Waits’s graveyard strolls. On “Nowhere Town,” Pigat’s spare, fingerpicked acoustic guitar provides the ominous backdrop for the artist’s straightforward, understated tale of complete and utter abandonment—by friends, by a lover, even by the place he called home; another quiet, fingerpicked folk beauty, “Troubled Mind,” recounts a fellow’s leave taking in response to his own inner turmoil eating him up; in a most unusual turn of events, he wishes for his gal to be waiting for him when the prodigal returns from his wanderings; Pigat’s sturdy, unaffected singing, the sincerity of his delivery, and the tenderness emanating from his soft guitar, sell the hint of better times ahead once the (mental) fog lifts.

To these you can add a cool, ragtime-flavored salute to the salutary effects of a certain home brew, “Corn Liquor,” complete with some tasty acoustic soloing by Pigat along with an advisory about the drink’s dubious after-effects: “Corn liquor/sweeter than wine/get you there but in half the time/one little sip’ll drive your blues away/but the bottom of the bottle be the end of yo’ days/you’ll make new friends all night long/wake up in the morning all your senses are gone/so drink with caution, have a good time/ ‘cause that corn liquor blues is gonna blow your mind.” And to the legion of double-entendre upbeat blues classics centered on sweeteners (see Bessie Smith’s “A Little Sugar In My Bowl” for further reference), add Pigat’s low-down romp “Sweet Tooth,” and take special pleasure in his frisky slide guitar solo, much as he hopes the object of his affection takes to his salacious come-on.

Pigat signs off with a couple more scrumptious items: he gets charged up electrically in the grinding, stomping “Tortured,” his fuzzed-out guitar howling, his voice frayed and growling grievously about his woman bailing on him; then signs off with a winsome, ethereal “Storm Song,” a low-key rumination attributing to atmospheric disturbances his inability to re-connect with another’s heart. Barry Mirochnick’s drums clatter, but with subdued anxiety, Pigat’s guitar wails and moans, but sotto voce, the music as wary of an oncoming fury as the singer’s voice is weary of the struggle. I think it’s gonna rain today.

Review by David McGee. - The Bluegrass Special (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "Pigat’s playing is the essence of taste and discretion""

Introducing Paul Pigat’s rockabilly alter-ego, Cousin Harley.

Cousin Harley is the rocking hillbilly facade of Paul Pigat, an extremely talented and exceptional guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Pigat began playing the guitar at the age of 11, and by age 12, he was already picking up gigs throughout all of Toronto. He deeply explored music along with live performance opportunities and pursued his dreams by audaciously heading to the West Coast of Canada.

Pigat has spent his whole career flying under the radar. He has created sweet sounds for some of the best artists in country without getting the attention you would expect. He persistently puts his ego aside and never gives into the temptation to be flashy or famous. He just does what he does best and focuses on his God-given talent. Pigat’s playing is the essence of taste and discretion as he fits easily into so many different musical universes without ever overplaying or surrendering to rock and roll clichés.

Joined by bass slapping Keith Picot and drummer Jesse Cahill, It’s A Sin features an unmistakable sound that lets you truly feel the music from head to toe. Pigat also plays under his own name, and has released a slower more subdued disc of tunes called Boxcar Campfire in 2009, which has Pigat exploring country blues.

Featuring a high energy rockabilly sound, Pigat’s impeccable style shines through in every song of It’s A Sin. If you enjoy jamming to bands like Brian Setzer, Reverend Horton Heat or The Paladins, you will love Cousin Harley’s free spirited music and taste.

Listen long enough and you'll realize it really doesn't matter what he plays. It’s A Sin is just plain fun to listen to. Jam packed with 13 great tunes including a few instrumentals, this album is guaranteed to get you movin’ and groovin.’ It features everything you are looking for! If you are downright ready to party, check out “Beaver Fever,” “Swingin’ Like A Mofo” or even “Spaghetti No Sauce.” And In “I’ll Keep My Old Guitar,” Cousin Harley lets the truth be known about women. Or let’s just say, his truth. “Women O Women, O everywhere, no matter where they roam; there they go, but in the end, they will do you wrong. You can talk about your hot redheads, you can talk about your blue-eyed blonds you can talk about your brunettes, but I’ll keep my old guitar.”

I believe it's when you get to hear Cousin Harley on his own that his star really sparkles. All of the ideas that have been percolating for years while he's been playing in the background have the chance to come out into the limelight and have their moment in the sun. He shows other artists what it’s like to not only sound good, but to have a blast while focusing on his true passion in life.

Four stars.

- Tracy Johnson- Contributor - (2011)

"Cousin Harley - "The real deal, not an imitator""

Fans of Brian Setzer who haven’t discovered Vancouver, Canada’s master of guitar fire and ice Paul Pigat would do themselves proud to pick up It’s a Sin, his latest solo offering, which just happens to offer an assured stylistic mix common to the Setzer canon. But Pigat, recording in his guise as Cousin Harley, is the real deal, not an imitator; he just happens to favor Gretsch guitars and the sonic and soulful properties of rockabilly, straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll and classic pop. In his native land fans know him as fronting a variety of bands, touring incessantly and generally never missing an opportunity to make a musical statement, whether that means backing another artist or taking center stage himself.

It’s a Sin is a sheer delight, a guitar tour de force and a soulful, high-spirited workout to boot. When you hear him craft some those cascading Les Paul flurries and sparkling, legato lines in “Beaver Ballad,” you kind of want to hear more of the same, but Pigot’s not about staying in one place on this album. He kicks it off with “Conductor Man,” a bopping rockabilly assault as notable for his cocksure vocalizing as it is for the hailstorm of descending lines he employs to add some extra oomph to the atmosphere, as well as an utterly sizzling guitar solo howling and snaking around the soundscape towards the end. Four cuts in, on the title track, he’s wailing on a self-absorbed gal who’s cold as ice, delivering his message with a rugged, earnestly pleading vocal over a relentless, driving rhythmic attack with his heavily reverbed Gretsch twanging and ringing in a full-on surf-style assault—which is immediately followed by the sensual Latin-flavored rhythms of “The Ballad of El Swartho,” a multi-textured instrumental in which Pigat expresses himself in a wide range of tones, from big, husky-noted runs to the spiky, trebly sort, with a tasty, steel-like swoop making a memorable cameo at one juncture. For those who favor speed and lyricism all at once, Pigat’s got what you’re looking for in “Hoss’ Hoedown,” which hits full stride about a split-second after it kicks off and never lets up for the next near-two-minutes, during which Pigat’s fleet-fingered soloing quotes country and rock ‘n’ roll sources all at once. Another instrumental, the amusingly titled “Swingin’ Like a Mofo,” would make Bob Wills holler with its amazing Django-meets-Eldon Shamblin pyrotechnics, hopped up rhythm and cheery disposition. There’s more than a bit of Wills western swing flavor to the album’s most enjoyable vocal moment, “Sweet Little Angel,” wherein a steady shuffling rhythmic thrust, Pigat’s good-natured testifying to his devotion to the heavenly gal in question, and some precise, electrifying breakneck soloing en route comprise an exalted lover’s celebration of that which moves him most. As he does on all the songs here, Pigat never subsumes heart to technique, never loses the human touch as he’s blazing away on the Gretsch. You feel him?

—David McGee. - (2011)

"Boxcar Campfire - "Oh man, this one is soooo very cool.""

Oh man, this one is soooo very cool as Paul Pigat embodies an old-timey vibe like nobody's business! The etymology of Boxcar Campfire is a hobo's night blaze fired up to warm body and soul 'midst a tradition of solitarily gypsy ways, freedom with hazards and want but a woolly experience around which many great songs have been written. In that, Pigat imbues his work with such bounce and vigor deriving from a swinging blues base that one is immediately reminded of Van Dyke Parks, Leon Redbone, the Cheap Suit Serenaders, old black blues, and country cowboy heel kicking. Not only that but the guy possesses a knack for lyrics that slots his original work right in there with the classics, a few of which, old and new, he covers here, the rest of the mode ringing solidly in absentia. Plays a damn good guitar, too, full of imagery and emotion—catch Nowhere Town for an eerily affecting example.

In his rocking' hillbilly persona, Pigat's the lead man for Cousin Harley (here), where he swings mean and hard before adopting a suave nightclub face for the Paul Pigat Trio, playing a righteous Les Paul / Charlie Byrd / Kenny Burrell guitar in jazz-smooth measures, but this solo stuff in Boxcar is so far removed from all of that, that it's almost spooky. The guy's a split personality case, all three manifestations 100% convicted. Even his voice chameleons itself to scale the fence in authenticity as railroad cops come sprinting down the rails brandishing billy clubs to hustle the bums, refugees, and bo's off to someone else's jurisdiction. Then Troubled Mind lovingly betrays sympathies to fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot.

Johnny's Poorly is a Hesitation Blues riff almost sounding like an outtake from Wizard of Oz, perhaps from a gaggle of unemployed Topeka Line munchkins lamenting a fellow oustee's bad luck. Why Wizard of Oz? Well, because there's the most unusual sense of subterranean merriment in the rendition despite the plaint of its mood, an irrepressible something in Pigat's work that refuses to be nailed down, flitting from cut to cut with engaging vivacity, all of it smoky with the husky flavors of a cat who lives for his work. In fact, this release is so hellaciously good that were I to resurrect my last-year-abandoned participation in the Top 20 O' Da Year FAME List, Boxcar Campfire would be one of the first inductees.

- by Mark S. Tucker
- The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (2011)

"Chairman of the Fretboard"

From classical capriccios to jazz improves and cowpunk whoop-ups, guitarist Paul Pigat string local music-lovers along

Ron Forbes-Roberts
Monday Magazine
December 2000

I’ve seen shirt pockets roomier than Paul Pigat’s practice space. The claustrophobic quarters seem even more cramped because of the guitarist’s occupational detritus—mounds of sheet music, amplifiers, electronic accessories, bits and pieces of dissected guitars—that covers every available surface.
One whole wall of the closet-sized room is obliterated by a stack of cases containing the essential tools of Pigat’s trade, among them a jazz arch-top, an acoustic flat-top, a classical guitar and a turn-of-the-century “parlour guitar” on which he plays slide and country blues.

The array of instruments represents the guitarist’s divergent musical passions that, over the years, have led him to perform everything from classical guitar recitals to blues-rock club gigs.

As his fingers meander up and down the neck of a nameless European jazz guitar, Pigat tries to explain this life-long attraction to so many diverse musical forms. “I’m a huge fany of Debussy. That music is passionate, but it’s mentally passionate as opposed to this other thing I like, which is more instinctive and primal-like banging a mastadon bone on a rock.”

While few who are familiar with Pigat’s fretboard legerdemain would liken his playing to banging bone on rock, it’s true that the highly kinetic music he plays with the Smokin’ Jackets and other bands is more likely to awaken the slumbering reptile within than the gentle, contemplative material Pigat played at this year’s JazzFest when he opened for Ottmar Liebert.

His ability to play convincingly in whatever style he chooses, rather than simple eclecticism, has made him one of Victoria’s most visible and respected musicians since arriving here in the mid-90s.

- Monday Magazine

"Cousin Harley Lets His Roots Show"

Branching out into swamp and other stuff on his latest album

Greg Potter
North Shore News/Vancouver Courier – 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
Globe and Mail

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 appreciate 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, t - 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

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


"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


2013 — B'Hiki Bop (Cousin Harley)
2010 — It's a Sin (Cousin Harley)
2009 — Boxcar Campfire (Paul Pigat)
2006 — Hillbilly Madness! (Cousin Harley)
2002 — Jukin' (Cousin Harley)

Instructional DVDs - Paul Pigat (
2008 — Travis Picking Hillbilly Fingerstyle Guitar
2006 — Jazzin' Up Your Guitar
2005 — Rockabilly Electric Guitar



Youd never think it to look at Paul Pigat, but behind that unassuming grin and underneath those Doc Watson glasses lurks one of the most restless, combustible musical imaginations ever crammed like so much canned heat into a single body. Blessed with a jazz mans sheen, a rockabilly heart and a hobos soul, there arent many genres of music that dont pull at Pigats wayfaring imagination like a magnet. In many ways, its a mystery why Paul Pigat isnt a household name yet. Maybe hed be a lot easier to pin down if he wasnt so darn good at so many different things.

One could be forgiven for thinking that up until now Paul Pigat has spent his whole career flying under the radar. Like all those great old Stax records where Steve Cropper stood behind Otis Redding and played his heart out before anyone knew who he was, Pigat has been creating sweet sounds for some of the best artists in the country without getting the attention youd expect. Still, youd have to have been hiding under a pretty big rock to have never heard the immediately recognizable sound of his distinctive guitar playing as over the last several years this unassuming Vancouver native has quietly compiled a list of credits that would be the envy of anyone in the music business.

There arent many musicians who can put their egos aside and lay down exactly the right part without giving into the temptation to be flashy. Without exception, Paul Pigats playing is the epitome of taste and discretion as he fits easily into so many different musical universes without ever overplaying or surrendering to rock and roll cliches. It doesnt take very long to hear why his intuitive rhythms and fluid, creative solos have become an indispensible part of so many musicians and bandleaders sounds. Whether hes playing a searing solo to elevate the soaring vocals of a traditional gospel rave up from The Sojourners or flying in to support Jakob Dylan at a showcase in New York, Paul Pigats singular dedication and peerless work ethic have earned him a growing respect within musics inner circles. However impressive the list of credits hes compiled over the last few years has been earned by supporting artists such as Neko Case, Jim Byrnes and Carolyn Mark its when you get to hear Paul on his own that his star really shines. All of the ideas that have been percolating for years while hes been playing in the background have the chance to come out into the limelight and have their moment in the sun. To paraphrase the old blues song, Pigats got so many tunes he dont know which way to jump. So, instead he simply gives into his muse and exuberantly follows wherever it carries him. Sometimes, he takes on the guise of inbred rockabilly hero, Cousin Harley to crank up the energy so high that no one can resist digging deep into their pockets to pay the wages of sin and dance around the still to Pigats exhilarating hillbilly squonk.

Called the Motorhead of Rockabilly by a delirious fan after a particularly raucous show in Holland, theres nothing tentative about Cousin Harleys pedal to the metal approach to this stripped down form of rock and roll. As Pigat notes, Cousin Harleys been my main project for 12 or 13 years now, and people think its easy to play rockabilly, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone has to be on board from the first note or it just doesnt work. And judging from the people who drove or flew hundreds of miles to attend shows on his last European jaunt, everythings working just fine. But, just when you think his music is all lit up like a leaky propane tank in a fireworks factory, Pigat can bring it down to 3 am embers with trouble in mind as he steps out and opens up his trunk full of Boxcar Campfire songs to romance you with. Originally created as a way of bringing it down a bit, Boxcar Campfire has taken on a life of its own as this new recording and touring project allows a more reflective and insular shade of Pigats creativity to come into play. Those with sharp ears will hear snatches of everything from Debussy to Jimmy Rodgers blues inflections thrown into the mix, but as always the sounds Pigat creates are all his own. With long gone days of railroad steam trailing out back of his head as he sings of possums in the pot and holes in his heart, this music gets you in the mood to hit the open road and jungle up down by the water, just before he takes it down again and you start dreaming of Lester Young and debonair jazz club suits.

From solos raw enough to melt the door off an old Cadillac to delicate etudes written for the crows to fly home to, Paul Pigat is a guitarist who can truly play it all. Is he a genteel sideman, unrepentant redneck, sensitive singer/songwriter, classical composer or a Mulligatawny blend of all the above? As unpredictable as your bipolar uncle one minute and as gentle as breaking dawn the next, youre never quite sure which Paul Pigat youre going to meet when you p