By MIKEL TOOMBS
Singer-songwriter Joe Pug, who opens Wednesday (Aug. 11) for the remarkable Levon Helm Band at the Woodland Park Zoo, has earned quite the reputation for “Messenger,” the follow-up to his EP “Nation of Heat.”
“Unless your surname is Dylan, Waits, Ritter or Prine,” a Paste Magazine writer opined, “you could face-palm yourself to death trying to pen songs half as inspired as the 10 tracks on Joe Pug’s debut full-length.”
A former playwrighting student at the University of North Carolina, the Chicago-based Pug, 25, is arguably at his most inspired on his “Messenger” song “Bury Me Far (From My Uniform),” a galvanizing, highly literate anti-war ballad: “Won’t you bury me far from my uniform,” he sings, “so God might remember my face.”
“Often songs are difficult to write but, once written, easy to release,” Pug has said. “That was certainly not the case with ‘Bury Me Far (From My Uniform).’ The song nearly wrote itself and yet I released it with great reluctance.
“There is a certain reverence that any decent person affords soldiers and their sacrifices. I was, and remain still, troubled that this song might violate that decency.
“Having never served myself I’m not always sure whether it is inspiring or insulting. I’ve certainly gotten my fair share of both reactions. In the end, the song stands on its own, and the distinction is yours to make.”
You might make that distinction Wednesday at the latest ZooTunes concert at the Woodland Park Zoo’s north meadow (tickets are $26; Pug goes on at 6 p.m.), or here, via a performance from Laundromatinee.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mikel Toombs, who writes a weekly music column for the San Diego News Network, is an occasional contributor to GeneStout.com. To read Mikel Toombs’ preview of the Randy Rogers Band, click here.