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Cousin Harley - It’s a Sin

Little Pig Records

13 tracks - Total time: 38:26

Cousin Harley is a trio comprised of Paul Pigat, vocals, Gretsch guitar and steel guitar; Keith Picot, electric bass; and Jesse Cahill, drums. Their CD, It’s a Sin, is 13 tracks comprising seven vocals and six instrumentals, 11 of them written by Paul Pigat; one, track 6, “2 Bottles of Booze,” co-written by Pigat and A. McLaughlin; and one, track 8, “I’ll Keep My Old Guitar,” written by A. Hofner. In many ways this is quintessential Canadian blues of that paradigm type established by the Northern Blues label—extraordinarily virtuoso guitar music that bursts across all genre lines. This is music that frequently incorporates elements into one song that embrace one or more diverse genres in order to create a music that’s eclectic, but not syncretistic. The music of It’s a Sin is best described as based on what to Canadians would be South of the Border music: U.S. roots and pop music that, in this case, comprises blues, country, swing, rockabilly, jazz, and even square dance, 1950s rock instrumentals, punk, and even surf rock. An extraordinary potpourri, original songs put together out of these elements, musical edifices built out of the bricks of the U.S. musical heritage.

Recorded and released by Little Pig Records, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, It’s a Sin is a product of Canada’s vibrant West Coast music scene. It’s geographically, but not musically, distant from the more-established Canadian music of the eastern provinces of Ontario and Quebec. As the recordings released by Northern Blues have long demonstrated, Canada has many outstanding guitar and other stringed instrument players. Paul Pigat is definitely one of these—displaying not only a technical mastery of the electric and steel guitars, but also a felicitous sense of how to incorporate this virtuosity effectively into compositions both artistic and soulful.

Just to indicate the diversity of the musical influences found and combined on It’s a Sin, consider these thumbnail descriptions. From the opening cut, we have a punk-rock beginning that glides into rockabilly on the vocal “Conductor Man,” while the first instrumental, track 3, “Beaver Fever” is a felicitous, bouncy rag. The second instrumental featured, track 5’s ‘Ballad Of El Swartho,” connects the Latin-based basic melody elements with jazz and blues bridges. Track 12, the vocal, “Sweet Little Angel,” is straight-ahead Bob Wills-style country swing, and track 7, “Hoss’ Hoedown,” is a square dance tune played at frenetic speed. Its predecessor, track 6, the vocal “2 Bottles of Booze,” is modern blues that will recall the recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Track 10, “Red Haired Baby,” is another “pure” modern blues, while the instrumental track 9, “Swingin’ Like A Mofo,” incorporates jazz, country and R&B into the blues. Track 11’s instrumental, “Spooks,” evokes horror-movie ghost sounds in a music that’s eclectic and vaguely Hawaiian. But swing elements predominate in track 2’s vocal, “She’s Comin’ Back.” Track 8’s vocal, “I’ll Keep My Old Guitar,” is a steel-guitar driven old-timey rag, and track 4, the vocal “It’s a Sin,” incorporates elements from early 1960s surf rock. The final track, the instrumental “Spaghetti No Sauce,” borrows substantially from late 1950s rock instrumentals as well as from surf music. All these tracks are played excellently and felicitously through incorporating both Gretsch electric and steel guitars in the instrumentation, with backup form bass and drums.

The lyrics to the vocals are just as felicitous as the instrumentation. It’s a Sin is a highly creative CD that guitar aficionados will love. It’s a Sin is further graced by excellent and roots-evocative graphic artwork on the back and front covers, the inside sleeve and CD tray, and on the CD itself.!

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.

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