harleyIT’S A SIN
Cousin Harley
Little Pig Records

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.

cousinIt’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

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024