Joe Pug is not a hipster with a banjo, a smarty pants with a computer, a naïf with a fake British accent singing in a fake forest. What he is is a serious songwriter, in the line of Guthrie, Dylan and Van Zandt. His best songs are American jeremiads, composed with images both fiery and fragile, calling down simple truths on his country and himself. On this year's release, The Great Despiser, he tests those songs against different sounds — E Street swagger, feedback stutter, waltzing country — and searches for "a narrative that was ours." Song by exceptional song, he's finding it.
Who Should Go: Anyone who believes, as Guthrie did and Pug surely does, that a songwriter's job is to "comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable."