By Mike Dunn
CALGARY – For an artist with a versatile palette as Paul Pigat has, it’s easy to veer off course when recording and throw as many styles into the mix as possible. A veteran player with enviable chops, Pigat can easily drop references to country, rockabilly, blues, jazz, and Western swing into a single phrase. It’s a matter of focus that keeps him from going off the rails, whether it’s his main project, the rockabilly-based Cousin Harley with longtime bandmates Keith Picot and Jesse Cahill, or some of his other work including the soon-to-be-released Jimmie Rodgers-influenced Boxcar Campfire record.
“I find it really difficult, because I’m a bit like a magpie,” says Pigat over the phone from Vancouver. “Something shiny gets my attention, so I have to reel myself in, you know, one project at a time. I have a whole record of open-tuned, modern fingerstyle guitar playing I haven’t put out yet in addition to the Merle Travis tribute with Cousin Harley, and these Boxcar Campfire records. There’s always going to be bleed between them, which is a good thing for me, it keeps things interesting. It’s good to be able to work on something for two months, and then I can put it out, or shelve it, and go work on something else.”
Pigat’s first Boxcar Campfire recording was released ten years ago and included a full band. For the upcoming second LP, however, he opted to hone in on a more classic, troubadour sound. “I’ve been doing solo gigs for a long time, and you have to if you’re planning on making a living as a musician. But I never really enjoyed it until the last four or five years when I figured out the freedom of playing by yourself,” reveals Pigat. “You can really do anything you want. So I thought doing this record by myself gives me a chance to think about all the aspects of the song. I love chords, I’m a jazz guy, so I love all the little voicings that can kind of trick the ear. And finding ways to write counter-melodies, and ways to make one guitar and one voice sound like a band. This is kind of like Jimmie Rodgers meets the Devil.”
For Cousin Harley’s upcoming run through Alberta, Pigat says there will be a special “Cousin Harley Lite” set that differs from the “full Cousin Harley atomic explosion show” in that it reins in the volume and features a little more breadth of the band’s capability.
“The Cousin Harley Lite show will be totally different. It’s more of the Western swing side of the band. I’ll probably be playing acoustic guitar for the most part, and we’re gonna pare it down and play some Bob Wills tunes, and of course some Merle Travis tunes from the new record.”
Cousin Harley plays the Geomatic Attic (Lethbridge) on Friday, June 15, and the Nite Owl (Calgary) on Saturday, June 16.
Cousin Harley, Geomatic Attic, Nite Owl