joe pug


What better way to start the new year than a new tune from HearYa fave, Joe Pug. If Still It Can’t Be Found is the first tune from Joe’s third LP, Windfall. Windfall will see be released by the fine folks at Lightning Rod Records and will be out this Spring. Long-time readers of HearYa know of our love of Joe’s music. Our very own, Stephen Shirk produced Joe’s first LP and we’ve done two HearYa sessions with Joe. Needless to say we’re looking forward to this one. Here’s some info from the PR.

The first single from the forthcoming release is the album-closing stunner, “If Still It Can’t Be Found” which features Pat Sansone of Wilco guesting on Mellotron and premiered on Rolling Stone Country. “I’ve known Joe for a couple of years now and have been able to see his powerful live show several times,” says Sansone. “Joe has the uncanny ability to write a song that feels like it’s been there always…and “If Still It Can’t Be Found” is one of those. I was really honored when he asked me to contribute to the recording of this truly beautiful and deeply soulful song.”

The agenda on Windfall was much simpler than previous albums. “The aim on this one was very straightforward. We wanted to capture the music just the way we play it, with minimal production. It was a very back to basics approach because ultimately that’s what I love about music, and that’s what I love about making music. I wanted to record these songs the way they were written and put them out in the world.”

The result is a collection of songs that are as close as we’ve gotten to a road map to Pug’s ambitions. He has collected plenty of the requisite Dylan comparisons over his young career but on this record it’s easier to hear the sway of more contemporary influences like Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams and M.Ward.

The theme of resilience plays a central role throughout Windfall. The weary protagonist in “Veteran Fighter” wills his way further down the highway despite the gloom that seems certain to overtake him. “The Measure”, a song inspired in part by Frederic Buechner’s novel Godric, marvels at “every inch of anguish, laid out side by side” but ultimately finds that “All we’ve lost is nothing to what we’ve found.”

“I never really write songs with a specific narrative in mind,” Pug explains. “When you’re sort of pushing through a dark period of your life it’s probably inevitable that some of that is going to find its way onto the page. But in the same way, by the time we were in the studio the process had become very effortless and joyful. And hopefully you can hear a lot of that on the record as well.”

Our sessions with Joe are here and here.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Joe Pug is here

Shirk is here

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It goes without saying that HearYa are big fans of Joe Pug. We’ve had him pay us a visit two times – here and here. Not to mention that Shirk produced his first album. He’s about as genuine guy as you’ll meet in the business, always ready with a smile. Here’s the story about the video and some tour dates.

When Joe Pug relocated from Chicago to Austin, TX in 2010 he certainly knew he was heading to a part of the country that had musical history without peer. What he didn’t know is that he’d quickly strike up a friendship with a local legend that he hadn’t even heard of at that point, Harvey “Tex” Thomas Young. Taken with the simplicity and subtlety of his work, Pug made Young’s haunting tale of redemption and perserverance “Deep Dark Wells” a staple of his live show.

It was clear pretty quickly that the audience was connecting to it on the same level as I was, and I’m qutie proud that we decided to make it the first cover song we’ve included on the album,” says Pug. “Harvey’s music may not be well known outside of Texas just yet, but hopefully whatever small exposure this version gets will bring it one step closer to its rightful inclusion in the American songbook.”

The video is as sparse and simple as the song, primarily featuring video short by Pug himself throughout his fall 2012 tour.


May 23 Boulder, CO — E-Town Hall
May 24 Denver, CO — L2 Arts and Culture Center
May 26 Black Forest, CO — Meadowgrass Festival
May 31 Iowa City, IA — Englert Theatre
June 1 Nelsonville, OH — Nelsonville Music Festival
June 2 Chicago, IL — City Winery
June 3 Chicago, IL — City Winery
June 4 Detroit, MI — The Magic Stick
June 6 St. Louis, MO — Twangfest
June 22 Chicago, IL — Beat Kitchen (SOLD OUT)
June 23 Chicago, IL — Green Music Festival
July 15 Helena, MT — Myrna Loy Center
July 18 Rapid City, SD — Main Street Square
Aug 3 Elkin, NC — Reevestock Music Festival
Aug 22-23 Fayetteville, AR — Fayatteville Roots Festi

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Joe Pug – Hymn #76 [music video]

by Woody on October 30, 2012

Joe Pug’s sophomore effort, The Great Despiser, is one of HearYa’s favorites of 2012 and Hymn #76 is one of this year’s best tracks. In typical Joe Pug bombastic style; the video includes scantily clad women, car chases and too many explosions to keep track of.

Joe will be bringing his high-tech pyrotechnic show to Lincoln Hall on Nov. 3rd. You can get tix here. If you have never seen him live, do yourself a favor and make the effort.

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I once said that it’s hard to put a price tag on Joe Pug’s music. I received his debut EP Nation of Heat in the mail while living in Northern California, shortly after moving away from Chicago. His debut LP Messenger arrived while living in Atlanta, shortly after leaving California. And now his sophomore LP, The Great Despiser, arrived after settling down in Kansas City. This journey, all over the course of just six years, has been one filled with emotions and experiences that range from the absolute best moments in my life to the absolute worst.

So maybe it’s the nature of my journey that drew me to Joe Pug’s music. I’m not sure that there’s a songwriter alive that instinctively understands the human condition quite like Joe Pug. His words have a magical ability to lead a listener to inner demons, self-discovery, healing, humility, and a healthy dose of laughter. Such is the case when I heard the last song on The Great Despiser, a Tex Thomas cover called “Deep Dark Wells.” Out of nowhere, as the song ended, I found myself reduced to tears.

You see, I don’t have a therapist and I’m not much of a talker when it comes to emotions. But over my six year journey, I’ve had my share of highs and lows. Celebration and tragedy. I married the love of my life, left one job for a better one, found myself in a lawsuit, saw the birth of my two beautiful kids, and stood by a family member during a difficult divorce. We also lost one member of our family to addiction. And then nearly another.

I was reflecting one day on these two brilliant, yet troubled people. I pictured the two men sitting at a table – a bottle sits between them. It has the capacity to kill them both. Don’t they understand? They both have one decision to make: live or die. Somehow, one man finds the strength to walk away. The other stays. One overcomes his demons and shows resilience. The other is engulfed in his burdens and leaves his family, this world, behind. I started to ask myself “Why?” and then I heard Joe’s acoustic and lyrics from “Deep Dark Wells” in my headphones:

From deep dark wells
Comes pure clean water
And the ice will melt
As the day gets hotter
And the night grows old
As the sun climbs into the sky

When now is then
And tomorrow’s coming
And where you’ve been
Starts meaning something
As long as you can
Just keep stumbling ahead

As long as you’re not finished
You can start all over again
As long as you’re not finished
You can start all over again
You can start all over again

Impeccable timing to surface some deep-seeded emotions.  Joe’s acoustic is accompanied by Greg Tuohey’s electric in a brief, subtle and gorgeous solo. The song is refreshing because it’s a motivational-type song, but without grand out-of-reach expectations. I fell in love with the line, “As long as you can, just keep stumblin’ ahead.” Does it get any simpler than that? It doesn’t have to be pretty and you may fall a time or two, but keep moving ahead. He repeats the chorus throughout the song, searing the message into into your being. “As long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again.” In fact, my emotions didn’t hit me until the third or fourth time I heard the chorus repeated. It felt like that scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams kept saying to Matt Damon “It’s not your fault” over and over until he wet himself.

I think this is why Pug’s growing fan base is so loyal. We identify with his music in a very personal way and we feel a sense of kinship with him as a person – as if we’ve known him for years. And now, with the release of The Great Despiser, we’re treated to Joe’s best work to date. The album is surprisingly better in every possible way. His vocals are softer and more confident. His sound is fuller with help from a band consisting of an upright base and electric guitar. And I didn’t think it was possible, but his songwriting is much better with lyrics that are less literal, leaving more for interpretation by the listener. His lyrical prowess is immediately evident in the first lines of opening song, “Hymn 76.”

To meet me is to dare into the darkness
But if you are devoted to a dream
Go and light the lantern
leave your family abandoned
Meet me by the shallows of the stream
O meet me by the shallows of the stream

I would normally call out other standout tracks, but there’s no shortage of them. I asked a few friends over an email to name their favorite tune and each responded differently – Hymn 76, The Great Despiser, Silver Hearts and Violins, One of Many.

“One of Many” has become my favorite. It’s the most abstract from a lyrical standpoint and I find myself increasingly frustrated in trying to understand its meaning:

As the only child / for a hundred miles / living in the land of plenty
You could raise your cup / anytime you want / and never find it empty
But your plate was flush / and you had so much / while others had not any
As you lay in bed / well they shaved your head / now you’re one of many
O now you’re one of many

It was hard to breathe / when you knew no need / the crown it lay say heavy
At night you slept / underneath your bed / with both your pistols ready
But they stole your robes / and now your clothes / they won’t sell for a penny
You’re free to rest / your naked chest / now you’re one of many
O now you’re one of many

As a traveler / in the wider world / the road was never friendly
So you turned around / you were homeward bound / at the tender age of twenty
When you arrived / you cried to find / your mother had no memory
Once you were her only son/ Now, you’re one of many
O now you’re one of many

Joe Pug is the embodiment of all that’s good in music and I’m one of his most grateful fans. I can’t put a price tag on his music because it has been stitched into the fabric of my life since I first heard “Hymn 101” off his Nation of Heat EP. My journey through life is different from yours, but we’re all on one and each comes with its share of ups and downs. If not Joe Pug, I hope that everyone has an artist, a song, or a note of music that makes the highs higher and helps cushion the falls.

The Great Despiser is out now, so feel free to pick it up. You’ll also find him touring all over the country. For more, check out our last session with Joe Pug for some free downloads and videos.

Joe Pug – One of Many


Joe Pug, Live Session #92

August 24, 2011

Joe Pug released his first EP around the same time folks started noticing this music blog. I vividly remember the day Nation of Heat arrived by mail and how my jaw slowly dropped as I listened to Pug’s songwriting. Music blogging is a labor of love and musicians like Pug are the reason we continue […]

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Joe Pug covered Tex Thomas last night at The Earl. Tex who?

April 7, 2011

Joe Pug and Strand of Oaks played an early show at The Earl in Atlanta last night. I’d review the show, but do I really need to say more about Joe and Tim? It’s impossible not to love both of these artists and I’m proud to have been introduced to their music very early on […]

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Joe Pug and Strand of Oaks Cover Each Other’s Songs, Begin Tour

March 28, 2011

I have two special treats today. The first is an announcement that two of my favorite songwriters, Joe Pug and Strand of Oaks (aka Timothy Showalter) are embarking on a tour together. The second is that, to kick off the announcement, each artist covered a favorite song from the other. Pug chose to record “End […]

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Joe Pug covers The Low Anthem, Tom Waits [Backstage and Bootleg]

November 12, 2010

Joe Pug ended his $10 tour in Austin, TX at The Cactus Cafe on November 6th. Luckily, Aaron Wevodau was in attendance and recorded the show because it’s fantastic. Here are a few song selections, but head over here to hear/download the entire set. “Not So Sure” has become one of my favorite tracks of […]

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Joe Pug, Elvis Costello, and The Levon Helm Band perform “The Weight” in Vancouver

August 17, 2010

Joe Pug is all growed up. He’s been touring and joining the stage with the likes of Steve Earle, Josh Ritter, and most recently, The Levon Helm band and Elvis Costello (video below). Joe is endearing on stage with what I’d imagine are his idols. I’m sure it was a surreal experience. It’s been pretty […]

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Joe Pug gives away Bury Me (Far From My Uniform) in honor of Memorial Day. [new mp3]

May 28, 2010

Joe Pug is one classy dude. He’s giving away one of the best songs of 2010 in honor of Memorial Day. I’ll let him explain: Often songs are difficult to write but, once written, easy to release,” explains Pug.‚  “That was certainly not the case with ‘Bury Me Far (From My Uniform).’‚  The song nearly […]

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