Joe Pug isn’t the first singer/songwriter to deal with Bob Dylan comparisons. It’s a convenient label to put on a contemplative guy with an acoustic guitar, sweet head of hair and narrative lyrics that enthrall listeners with their literary vividness and punctuating cadence. (See: Bruce Springsteen, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.”)
But the Maryland native isn’t the next Dylan, Springsteen or John Prine—and he doesn’t need to be. His material is potent enough on its own, as exemplified on his last release, 2015’s “Windfall.”
Crafted from the remnants of touring exhaustion, personal tumult and depleted creativity, it was his piano-guided return to the scene after a necessary hiatus, and its songs still hold up some three years since their release.
Pug will bring these and more from his other full-length and EP releases—as well as work slated for his still-in-progress next release—when he visits Buffalo’s 9th Ward @ Babeville on Nov. 18.
Here are five things to know before checking out his visit:
Pug can construct a great song—or an addition to your kitchen
Before gaining a foothold as a regularly touring musician, the songwriter dropped out of college as a senior at the University of North Carolina, moved to Chicago and took a job as a carpenter—all while taking his first steps toward his current career with open-mic appearances around the Second City.
Impressive tribute to Springsteen? Find his cover of “Downbound Train”
Once again, Pug’s style and substance doesn’t need to piggyback on anyone for comparison’s sake. Does this mean he can’t use his imprint to pay homage to a cherished Bruce Springsteen track? No. Get on Spotify, and see what he does with the aforementioned for 2015’s “Deadman’s Town: Born in the U.S.A. Revisited,” which includes reworked tracks by Jason Isbell, Justin Townes Earle and others.
He hosts his own podcast, “The Working Songwriter
Since recording and releasing “Windfall,” Pug has produced a once-a-month show to interview fellow songwriters about process and pleasures of the craft. Guests on the show have included such genre brethren as Josh Ritter, genre antitheses like Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, and music icons like Steve Earle—who Pug opened for on tour in 2009.
During his artistic ascension, touring took its toll
According to Pug’s website bio, four years of straight touring off 2010’s “The Messenger” and 2012’s “The Great Despiser”—with continuous club dates wrapped around appearances at Bonnaroo and the Newport Folk Festival—nearly led the musician to call it quits. After a two-year break to renew his love of music and recover a handle on life, he returned with his most ambitious album to date.
The perfect way to end “Windfall”? Add Wilco.
Listeners can find a variety of highlights on Pug’s last release, whether in the lamentations of “Bright Beginnings” or the revelations of “The Measure.” But at the end of the release, fans can appreciate the Mellotron work of Wilco’s Pat Sansone contributing to the poignancy of the renewed optimism on “If Still it Can’t Be Found.”
Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 in 9th Ward @ Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.). Tickets are $15 in advance; $17 on day of show. Visit ticketfly.com or the Babeville Box Office.