Joe Pug : Messenger

joe_pug_messenger.jpgTo borrow just a bit from Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams – if you send it, they will come. 

Such was singer/songwriter Joe Pug’s belief as he mailed out, on his own dime, over 15,000 free CD samplers – complete with a personal note – to anyone and everyone who asked. Pug’s mass mailing covered all 50 states and 14 countries, and it marks, perhaps, the greatest one-man grassroots marketing campaign in music history.

If you send it, they will come.

And they are. In droves. Fans are critics are greeting with great acclaim Messenger, Pug’s full length recording debut. The former aspiring playwright – Pug left his studies at UNC to pursue his music career in Chicago – has a voice reminiscent of soulful folk crooner Martin Sexton and a poetic, lyrical style guaranteed to spark envy in his fellow mid-20-something songsmiths.

Messenger proves Joe Pug to be a man of contemplative nature and rollicking spirit. The title track, with its distinct Ryan Adam-sy feel, and the electrified version of “Speak Plainly, Diana” – which originally appeared on Pug’s Nation of Heat EP – speak to Pug’s comfort in front of a full band, while such stripped down gems as “The Sharpest Crown” and “Unsophisticated Heart” show that, when you boil it down, all Pug needs is his voice and an acoustic guitar to be mesmerizing.

The defining tune on Messenger is assuredly its most somber and revealing. Joining John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” and John Prine’s “The Great Compromise” in the pantheon of great protest songs is “Bury Me Far (From My Uniform).” So many “war is bad” songs come across as trite or pithy, but this stark, seething rebuke of war is a shot to the solar plexus, with a rippling, palpable anger strong enough to give one pause.

With Messenger, Joe Pug has released the first truly brilliant record of 2010. His place among the great songwriters of the upcoming decade is certified.

Messenger is out now on Lightning Rod Records.

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