Joe Pug

In the very last few flickering seconds of Joe Pug's "Hymn #101," he creates a new way to think about the human heart, even if it's just in passing and even if that's just the tip of it as throughout the song and through the winding and winded dirt roads of his songs, he's already introduced many more dozens of new ways to think about the human heart. The one that he proffers at the tail end of this particular song suggests that the muscle in there making all those thumping clatterings and bashful whisperings three or four floors below is made out of a thick, marbled hunk of wood, or planks of it tightened together with metal and nails. Close up and cleaned off, outside that dark corridor of the internal organs, it smells like sap and birdhouses. The top of the thing would pull back in a creaking rip and inside would lay not the hangovers and the regrets and the dilapidated remains of men and women, but the items and the truly valuable possessions that you can take with you when you die. The treasures inside that wooden chest are those most sacred and Joe Pug, the Chicago songwriter with a curious soul and a need (so it seems) to do right and to leave here - whenever that time comes to pass - with the kind of heart that resembles the suitcase of someone leaving home for no more than a week who tends to pack everything but the kitchen sink, holding the contents in with a knee or two as the straining zipper is slowly taken around the luggage. He tells us that he's come to "test the timber" of his heart and that's a very poetic way of saying that he's knocking on it, he's beating on it, kicking its tires, giving it some serious dilemmas and seeing how it handles the cross-winds and the misfortunes bestowed. He's come to test his most tender and bleary object against the rigors - all the rigors that can be thrown at it. He wants to see if it will stand or if it will roll over, if it will buckle or brace itself for the squall and then shake off like a wet dog and grow an exhilarated smile. Pug doesn't make tracings of songs, light and shaky composites of what has been heard, the worn out mash of faux writers whose recognition of a feeling or thought is never a guarantee of originality, despite their wildest delusions. He, with his backwoods sweetness and his thoughtful autopsies of the most pressing subjects in his life, gives us songs of the same red wine swigging and candle wax-breathing that Willy Mason does contemporarily and Cat Stevens did back in his heyday. Every song is another chapter in a lifelong search for Pug, whose main goal lyrically (which is just a common term used here to mean spiritually) is to get to the crux of not just where he's headed, but where his father and his father's father were trying to get to before the years came after them and stopped their progress. It's a course bearing down on fulfillment, on maximizing the time spent here and finding reason to observe a day of rest on Sunday as well as needing to make right with the luminous figures and sorts up there on the horizon. It seems like a lot to bite off, on paper, but Pug has a very manageable way of cutting through all of the faulty wirings and misguided importance that make us unable to function, unable to move about. His is an honest and pure air way of striding into the exact life that he was meant to have for himself, of just closing his eyes and letting it hit him full-bodied and headlong. He sings, "I've come to trade the harvest for the seed," and it seems that this is to mean that he won't accept the answers without the work, even if they're written out in front, ahead of time. Rodney Dangerfield's character in "Back To School," wouldn't buy used books because, even if they were already highlighted and underlined, there was no way to know if you were getting the highlights of an idiot before you, the very bits that someone else found important. They wouldn't do anyone else much good and that's how Pug sees things. He'll choose his way to heaven and he'll choose his own way around these roads, putting his findings into that sturdy wooden treasure chest he carries as a safe.

Joe Pug Tour Dates:

Jan 27 The Basement / Nashville, TN(free show)

Jan 28 The Canopy Club / Champaign, IL

Jan 29 Locals Only / Indianapolis, IN

Jan 30 Ann Arbor Folk Festival / Ann Arbor, MI +

Jan 31 Ann Arbor Folk Festival / Ann Arbor, MI +

Feb 3 Joe's Pub / New York, NY

Feb 6 Fitzgerald's / Berwyn, IL *

Feb 7 Majestic / Madison, WI *

Feb 8 The Fine Line / Minneapolis, MN *

Mar 14 Park West- / Chicago, IL #

Mar 15 Pantages / Minneapolis, MN #

Mar 18 South By Southwest / Austin, TX

Mar 19 South By Southwest / Austin, TX

Mar 20 South By Southwest / Austin, TX

Mar 21 South By Southwest / Austin, TX

Mar 27 The Ark / Ann Arbor, MI

Mar 28 RootsFest Denver--Ellie Caulkins Opera House / Denver, CO !

Apr 3 State Theatre / Ithaca, NY ^

Apr 4 The Egg / Albany, NY ^

Apr 5 Tupelo Music Hall / Londonberry, NH ^

Apr 7 Ridgefield Playhouse/ Ridgefield, CT ^

Apr 9 B.B. Kings / New York City, NY ^

Apr 10 Narrows Center for the Arts / Fall River, MA ^

May 1 Schubas Tavern / Chicago, IL

May 2 Schubas Tavern / Chicago, IL

* with Rhett Miller

# with Madeleine Peyroux

^ with The Flatlanders

+ with Jeff Tweedy, Old Crow Medicine Show, Pete Seeger, others

! with Shawn Colvin, Leo Kottke, Hot Rize, others

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