Singer-songwriter Joe Pug has been the beneficiary of a growing buzz in Chicago, but I managed by just a few minutes to miss two of his six gigs at the recent South by Southwest Music & Media Conference. The songs on his Web sites (www.myspace.com/thejoepug and www.nationofheat.com) are impressive enough, however, showing the clear influence of music heroes such as Bob Dylan and John Prine, a rich baritone that belies his age and a bold political consciousness that may not be in style but which is still very much needed.
"When hunger strikes are fashion and freedom is routine/And all the streets in Cleveland are named for Martin Luther King/You may see me at the protest but notice that I drag/I burn my father's flag," the 23-year-old artist sings in "I Do My Father's Drugs," one of seven tracks on his "Nation of Heat" EP.
Dropping out of school at the University of North Carolina, where he was hoping to become a playwright, Pug moved to Chicago a few years ago and began to reinvent himself as a musician, working in between as a carpenter. He's gearing up to release his first full album later this year, and he returns to Chicago to perform at Schubas on May 1 and 2 in the midst of a long tour that started before SXSW and which runs through the end of May.