Chicago indie-folk troubadour Joe Pugliese, known better as Joe Pug, has a baby face and an old man's soul. The 25-year-old former carpenter and aspiring playwright emerged a few years ago with his Nation of Heat EP — a temperate yet self-assured collection of songs that seemed more the work of a wistful, world-weary observer taking stock as he approaches the end of his days than that of a wide-eyed youth dazzled and confounded by a parade of new experiences. Early comparisons to Dylan and Springsteen weren't necessarily lazy — you could hear the nasal twang and the phrasing of the former and the husky-voice nostalgia of the latter in Pug's delivery, abetted by old-timey acoustic pick 'n' strum. Taken as a whole, he really sounds like neither Dylan nor Springsteen, though his storytelling acumen is occasionally on par with both. On his 2010 debut LP, Messenger, tiny but evocative details (broken windows, crossword puzzles, breakfast wine, etc.) drove home tales of heartbreak, loss, and doubt, many of them fleshed out with traditional country accouterments (pedal steel, harmonica, banjo, and more) turned moody and haunting. Pug's old-soul conviction should enable him to take command of the stage in Tempe, and hopefully he'll showcase a few new tunes while he's at it.
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