Joe Pug

Thursday

SXSW Records

Joe Pug

Messenger (Lightning Rod)

Troubadours tabbed as the next Dylan number by the generations now, yet 25-year-old Joe Pug, based out of Chicago, should make even the most sample-happy listener take note. Considering the title of this full-length debut, it follows that Pug is a man with something to say. With a touch of vintage R.E.M. on the title track, Pug pulls the deft trick of playing unseen listener to a female folksinger. Things drag on "Not So Sure," exposing Pug's limited vocal range, but the overall Messenger here is grounded in narrative passion rather than with notions of a peaceful, easy feeling. Another standout is latter-day protest "Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)," while Pug sounds like Iron & Wine doing John Prine as he gets his wordplay on with "Unsophisticated Heart." This sophisticated writer will only improve as he steps free of his influences. (Thu., 12mid, St. David's Bethell Hall.)

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