In honor of what would have been the 100th birthday of Merle Travis (November 29th), Canadian cats Cousin Harley have released a new album! Packed with classics from the catalog of this pioneer from Kentucky, Cousin Harley put their signature style all over this record.  Blue Smoke: The Music of Merle Travis consists of 12 tunes that are simply amazing.  Below are excerpts from an interview Paul Pigat did with Gretsch (full interview HERE) discussing the project along with some videos from the release party this past weekend posted by fans.


Why did you choose to honor Merle Travis?

Because he was such a huge influence on me. I’m also a firm believer that a lot of guitar players are somehow influenced by Merle Travis, they just don’t realize it. Without Merle, there’d be no Chet Atkins. Without Chet, there’d be no Scotty Moore, no Beatles, and no rock ‘n’ roll. Merle added syncopation that gave us the essence of the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll in my opinion. Even though Merle’s not as well known as, say, Charlie Christian, I think he’s equally as influential.

It’s ironic that Bigsby is sponsoring this project, given the history between Merle Travis and Paul Bigsby.

Yes, I love the connection. Merle and Paul were friends and, of course, Bigsby worked with Merle to build the first modern solidbody electric guitar in 1948. Then, a few years later, Merle challenged Bigsby to design a guitar vibrato that would work and keep his guitar in tune. That’s when the Bigsby Vibrato was born. Gretsch owns Bigsby today, and Dinah and Fred were very kind to help sponsor the project. They appreciate the historic connections between Paul Bigsby and Merle Travis, and Bigsby Vibratos and Gretsch guitars.

Cousin Harley

Cousin Harley. Photo: Adam PW Smith

You seem to be pleased with the end results of your tribute CD.

I am. I’ve wanted to do a tribute to Merle Travis for a very long time. I’ve been covering Merle tunes for years because I love a funny song, and the man could write some seriously funny songs. Any time I get to play some Merle, I’m always happy.

Blue Smoke: The Music of Merle Travis will be available from several online partners, including iTunes and CD Baby.


Check out this video YouTuber Allan MacInnis posted of the show!

And from TheNitroGretsch:

And now: Cousin Harley’s Blue Smoke: The Music of Merle Travis has been chosen as one Top Ten of Best Roots Albums by Guitar World Magazine! Check out the post HERE on!

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