It was toward the tail end of summer when Joe Pug came into town for Nashville’s Americana Fest. It was undoubtedly warm out, but not sultry. We met him and his band at Prime Recording Studio, near the fantastic ’12-South’ neighborhood in the south end of town. It was a weekday afternoon, everyone was in a calm and un-rushed mood. There were cold Modelo Especials in the fridge, as well as the hands of the band. During set up people amused themselves by picking different different 45 single songs on the wonderful antique Rockola jukebox that stands within the recording studio’s break room of sorts.
Joe Pug is from North Carolina, started his musical career in Chicago, is signed to a Nashville indie label, and now lives in Austin, TX. Not unsurprisingly his version of “Americana” music isn’t something easy to put your finger on as it draws from many an influence. What you’ll probably notice first is his unique voice and way of singing. It could be called bourbon-barrel-smooth or maybe even waxy-clean-with-edges. It’s projected clearly and cleanly, but when he wants to pull up that extra strength a beautiful sense of character also comes across. Plus, it’s a little varying in each song, an added bonus.
Joe sang three songs for OurVinyl TV. The first one is ‘The Great Despiser’, the title track from his most recently recorded album. There is a slow build and a lot of emotion, but it all pays off. Be sure to watch it entirely, as there is a wonderful harmonica solo at the end from Joe.
Secondly Joe played ‘Hymn 101’, which is one of many songs Joe has released over the years that are inspired by different hymns. They are some of his best tracks, and number 101 doesn’t disappoint either. On display here is not only wonderful guitar picking by Joe and his band mate, but a vocal pattern that waves with energy, lyrics that skip along, and subject matter that grabs the attention of the mind.
The last song was an unexpected treat, a solo cover of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Downbound Train”, which Joe was working on for the new Dead Man’s Town album on Lightning Rod Records. You can really hear the beauty of the tube amplified synthesizer, as well as enjoy Joe’s somewhat skeletal-yet-stellar approach to both the vocals and the harmonica playing. Getting this song done right was clearly important to Joe, it was apparent he had worked on it for a while, and that doing the song justice was important to him. Even after a couple takes, which sounded perfect to everyone else, he needed to go after it one more time. The result was something special. This is one to sit back and take in through some close listening!
A big thank you to Joe Pug, his band mates, and Prime Recording Studio.
Written by Sean Brna
OurVinyl | Editor