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Cousin Harley > It's A Sin

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Little Pig Records is pleased to announce the release of It’s A Sin, the first CD in four years from Vancouver’s Cousin Harley, and touted as the best one yet. With the exception of two obscure covers, the seamless amalgam of rockabilly, surf, spaghetti western themes, Tex-Mex and western swing were all penned by Paul Pigat.

Whether he’s 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 Pigat’s singular dedication and peerless work ethic have earned him a growing respect within music’s inner circles.

However impressive the list of credits he’s compiled over the last few years has been—earned by supporting artists such as Neko Case, Jim Byrnes and Carolyn Mark—it’s 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 he’s 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, Pigat’s got so many tunes he don’t 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 Pigat’s exhilarating hillbilly squonk.

Called the ‘Motorhead of Rockabilly’ by a delirious fan after a particularly raucous show in Holland, there’s nothing tentative about Cousin Harley’s pedal to the metal approach to this stripped down form of rock and roll. As Pigat notes, “Cousin Harley’s been my main project for 12 or 13 years now, and people think it’s 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 doesn’t work.” And judging from the people who drove or flew hundreds of miles to attend shows on his last European jaunt, everything’s working just fine.

2010 tour highlights included Paul Pigat’s series of acclaimed shows at Winter Namm in Los Angeles representing Gretsch Guitars, a tour of The Netherlands and Belgium with Jim Byrnes and The Sojourners and Cousin Harley’s Australian debut at the Byron Bay Bluesfest on Easter weekend. The band hit the road in support of It’s a Sin with a tour of both Western Canada and Europe in July. Extensive touring of North America, Europe and Australia are in the works for 2011/2012. So, perhaps it would be better if we all stopped thinking, buckled up, and held on to enjoy Mr. Pigat’s wild ride for all its worth.

TRACK LISTING

1. Conductor Man
2. She’s Comin’ Back
3. Beaver Fever
4. It’s a Sin
5. The Ballad of El Swartho
6. 2 Bottles of Booze
7. Hoss’ Hoedown
8. I’ll Keep My Old Guitar
9. Swingin’ Like a Mofo
10. Red Hair Baby
11. Spooks
12. Sweet Little Angel
13. Spaghetti No Sauce
All songs by Paul Pigat except 6 & 8.

REVIEW

Don’t let the tarpaper shack depicted on its cover fool you: Cousin Harley bandleader Paul Pigat’s recent solo effort, Boxcar Campfire, was decidedly down-home, but It’s a Sin is considerably more countrypolitan than crude.

The tip-off is the presence of drummer Jesse Cahill. A respected session player and jazz musician, Cahill brings immense drive and subtle sophistication to this superficially rootsy effort, while doghouse bassist Keith Picot slaps his way across all 13 tracks with rockabilly abandon. That leaves Pigat free to croon like Rat Pack mainstay Dean Martin’s country cousin—when he’s not conducting a master class in swing-to-bop-to-blues guitar, that is.

On that instrument, Pigat has the curious distinction of being a fresh voice in a style that’s been dead for almost half a century. Naturally, his approach to hot country-swing guitar—as pioneered by various Oklahoma jazzers and Texas troubadours before being made safe for pop consumption by Les Paul—is considerably edgier than that of his ancestors, especially when he hovers just on the edge of distortion, or hammers his chords with punky determination. But he’s also a guitar scholar who knows just when to tip his hat to such unsung heroes as George Barnes or Junior Barnard, and that makes It’s a Sin a serious pleasure for those of us who care about such things.

Others, though, might just call it a whole lot of twangy, revved-up fun.

- Alexander Varty, Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

More REVIEWS from 2011 >

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