Joe Pug: Messenger, in "Nothing Not New"

Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

Artist: Joe Pug
Title: Messenger
Release date: February 16, 2010
Label: Lightning Rod Records

There's a not a damn thing wrong with Joe Pug's new record, Messenger. The Chicago country-ish singer-songwriter writes evocative lyrics about interpersonal relationships, tastefully strums and deftly fingerpicks his acoustic guitar, croons with a clear, soulful tenor, and composes solid, fat-free tunes -- there's not a stinker on this 10-song record. So, in short, the guy seems like a true pro. All that being said, Joe Pug leaves me a little cold.

What's the problem? Well, for a guy who's made his name opening tours for Steve Earle, I'd like a little more of that scruffy Earle influence to rub off on Pug. To me, Pug is more akin to a sensitive James Taylor-type singer-songwriter than other newer country-ish guys I listen to, like Ryan Bingham and Bobby Bare Jr.

Still, Pug's obviously talented, and it'll be interesting to see what he can come up with in the future. You can check out Pug next week, when he plays Monday night at the Rhythm Room.

Best song: "Unsophisticated Heart" (why is this song buried at track 7?).
Rotation: Medium
Deja Vu: The coffeeshop, not the rock club.
I'd rather listen to: Last year's Justin Townes Earle record, Midnight at the Movies
Grade: C

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