Paul Pigat > Boxcar Campfire > REVIEWS

Boxcar Campfire Cover THE BLUEGRASS SPECIAL - 2011

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 ownself. 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.

- David McGee.

BLUES MATTERS Magazine - 2011

Paul Pigat is the front man for the strangely named Cousin Harley, a group of musicians from Canada. This album actually came out in 2009 and may have had its burst over there, but for the UK this is a compendium of various styles of music. Rockabilly, Blues and Folk and it may be resurrected on this side of the pond. It is not an album to pigeon hole and has a certain charm to it. His musical style is deeply rooted in the Mississippi Delta which seems a world away from Canada, but with fluidity and precise playing of the guitar, he crosses genres with ease. The tone of his playing has a certain creativity of its own. With a rich set of vocal chords allied to an innate guitar playing ability, which Pigat has used to create an album that is easy on the ear. This is not for someone looking for the blues per se, but it has a general sort of appeal without being specific to any type of music. The lyrics can be a bit anodyne, but then I wasn't looking for some deep profound message in this particular form of Folksy album. Track 9 ‘Troubled Mind’ is a particularly good example of his delicate finger work on the guitar and in truth the lyrics aren't all bad. The penultimate track ‘Tortured’ is a total contrast to everything else with a sort of dark intensity to it. In reality this album is not going to shake the foundations of the music world in the UK, but it does showcase Paul Pigat as an all-round musician with some ability.

-Alan K.


Roots-country guitarist-vocalist Paul Pigat would likely be classified in Americana if he was based in the States. Based in Vancouver he has two new CDs on Little Pig Records. One is as by Cousin Harley, Its a Sin, while the other is under his own name and entitled Boxcar Campfire. The two discs have very different flavors but are quite enjoyable in their separate fashion.

Pigat’s own Boxcar Campfire, is built upon a mostly acoustic quartet and has a folk-country feel with some blues tinges with Pigat on guitars and banjo, Tommy Babin on bass, Barry Mirochnink on drums and Paul Rigby on mandolin. The ambiance is more of what some might call “Americana,” ranging from the folk oriented Johnny’s Poorly, to the bluegrass flavored All Over Now. A reference point might be the great Leon Redbone, although Pigat’s recordings don’t have his dead pan humor. John Henry Part 2, with its dirge tempo, has Pigat on electric guitar and is an original lyric with this John Henry being an offspring of the hero, who never should have driven a spike on the line, being free with his knife and free with his gun.“ Corn Liquor has some nice finger style guitar with a Piedmont blues tinge, while “Nowhere Town,” is a reflective solo performance. Lonesome Whistle is a invigorating bluegrass-tinged treatment of an Hank Williams number rousing interplay between mandolin, acoustic guitar and steel guitar and followed by the amusing lyric of Sweet Tooth. Boxcar Campfire shows another side of Paul Pigat’s music and is the diverse performances are wonderfully performed and so very entertaining.

- Ron W.


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.

- Mark S. Tucker.


While you might not have heard of Paul Pigat, chances are that you’ve heard him before. Over the past few years, the Vancouver native has backed artists like the Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, Jakob Dylan, and Neko Case, contributing guitar work that is the very epitome of roots music. At home playing styles ranging from blues to jazz to rockabilly to swing, Pigat is that rare artist who appeals to just about every fan of good music. He recently released two discs simultaneously on his own Little Pig Records, one under his own name and the other under his rockabilly hero guise of Cousin Harley. This pair of recordings is as different as daylight and dark.

Boxcar Campfire is a whole different animal. There are traces of country, blues, folk, and even some old-timey jazz mixed together. Where the rockabilly disc is a great way to let off steam and just let loose, Boxcar Campfire is a more contemplative release, with the focus more on the songs than the music itself. Pigat really demonstrates his incredible versatility on guitar and banjo. He wrote most of the songs, and while they address most of the familiar themes, they’re by no means familiar in their lyrical content or delivery….mixing tunes about love and heartbreak (“Nowhere Town,” “Troubled Mind,” and “Johnny’s Poorly”) with more light-hearted fare (“Corn Liquor,” “Sweet Tooth”). He also adds a few standout covers by folks like Hank Williams (“Lonesome Whistle”) and Billy Vera (“Papa Come Quick”). Music like this is too good to let slip by.

Simply put, if you call yourself a music lover, especially a lover of American roots music, both of these discs belong in your collection and will provide many hours of listening pleasure.

- Graham Clarke.

WWW.HONESTTUNE.COM - March 5th, 2011

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.

- Fred Adams.

MUZIKREVIEWS.COM - March 5, 2011

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.


Vancouver’s Paul Pigat plays the old-time blues as well as rootsy folk and country music on this collection of originals. With fingerpicked guitar, banjo, and slide, it’s a great collection of stylish and inspiring playing.

– M.D.

BLUES & RHYTHM (UK) - 2011

Cousin Harley are Vancouver native Paul Pigat vocals/guitar/steel guitar, Keith Picot bass, Jesse Cahill drums. They first got together about five years ago, and have released two previous albums, ‘Jukin’’ and ‘Hillbilly Madness’. Little Pig Records is Pigat’s own label.

‘Boxcar Campfire’ is a mostly acoustic project, allowing Pigat to explore traditional country blues, high lonesome western music and other roots genres. It’s a collection of mostly self-penned songs about love, heartbreak and salvation. The folk/blues/string-band sound on ‘Boxcar Campfire’ recalls songwriting influences from Townes Van Zandt to Mississippi John Hurt.

It’s a bit of a sidestep from ‘Cousin Harley’, not so much of the fireworks, more reflective. Hints of Jimmie Rodgers, a devastating bluegrass take on Hank Williams’ ‘Lonesome Whistle’ with some really outstanding picking and Dobro from Pigat. And given a military march backbeat ‘Papa Come Quick’ is co-penned by none other than our own Billy Vera. However, with tasteful musicianship throughout, the songs are the main focus on this CD, rather than the playing.

No matter, if you love real fine pickin’, and are not averse to something different on occasion, then these two CDs will repay investigation, with ‘Cousin Harley’ being the one that will probably appeal to B&R readers, although I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

- Phil Wight.

THE GUITAR SHOW - TGS Spotlight Player from February 3, 2011

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 Pigat’s creativity to come into play. Those with sharp ears will hear snatches of everything from Debussy to Jimmy Rogers 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, you’re never quite sure which Paul Pigat you’re going to meet when you put on one of his CDs. But, listen long enough and you’ll realize it really doesn’t matter what he plays. Music this good transcends boundaries and resists any attempts at categorization. And, even if you reached the point where you thought you’d figured Paul Pigat out, by that time he’d have gone and changed on you again. 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.

- Andy Ellis.


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.

MIDWEST RECORD, Chicago, IL – January 25, 2011

Holy Christ, is this a first class piece of outsider music! Michael Hurley goes down to the Delta, gets the devil and hell hounds on his tail and this blues/folk oddity is all that’s left as a result. The casual listener might miss the point but the jaded ears are going to flip out in relief. Totally nuts stuff that was originally started as a diversion by the artist, it’s taken on a life of its own and a wild life it is. If you’ve been kvetching about how long it’s been since something that really colors outside the lines has come along, the wait is over. Well done.

- Chris Spector.


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.

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