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.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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