Like that baby-faced Guthrie acolyte from Duluth, Minnesota, Joe Pug will one day go electric. For now, fans of elemental broadside ballads can savor every finger-plucked note, every crackle and growl accenting his internal rhymes, every hearty harmonica moan and every unstudied sentiment that drips from his unfashionable sleeves. "The more that I learn, the more that I cheat," the 24-year-old Chicagoan admits on the title track of his 2008 EP Nation of Heat, but the only cheat is the capo gripping his buzzing strings. It's plain to see why Pug was recently pegged to open for a Steve Earle tour: He's a serious songwriter first, with a way of conveying his conscience that never panders, never preaches and yet still has the power to convert.
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