Justin Townes Earle & Joe Pug at Telluride’s Opera House, 2/20

Justin Townes Earle & Joe Pug at Telluride’s Opera House, 2/20

[click “Play” to listen to Susan’s conversation with Joe Pug]

Joe Pug

Justin Townes Earle
photo:Joshua Black Wilkins

The program at the Sheridan Opera House on February 20, (doors and box office 8:30 p.m. for 9 p.m. show) features two clear-voiced populist troubadours. Top billing goes to Justin Townes Earle, the son of Steve Earle, who in turn learned his craft from two Lone Star legends, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.

Since the release of his The Good Life two years ago, which charted on Billboard Country as soon as it debuted, Earle has been hitting the boards all over the world: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest, Chicago Country Music Festival, Americana Music Awards, Down Home in Norway and his debut on the Grand Ole Opry. The chip off the old block has also performed in the UK, Australia, and Scandinavia.

Midnight at the Movies, released in 2009, earned the young Earle the New and Emerging Artist of the Year Award at the 8th annual Americana Music Awards. So it appears the redoubtable Earle legacy, fierce humanism and empathy for the underdog, lives on.

As for Joe Pug, he could teach Obama a thing or two about gorilla marketing.

In 2008, Pug saw the light. After writing his first album, “Nation of Heat”, after his first headlining gig sold out at Chicago’s storied Schubas Tavern (2008), as word spread like wild fire, Pug resurrected an old marketing idea that worked well for Gillette: give away the razors, get sales from the razor blades. Pug decided to literally give away, at his own expense, unlimited copies of a two-song sampler CD to fans to pass along to their friends. The response was overwhelming. To date, Pug has sold over 15,000 CDs in 50 states (Howard Dean’s winning strategy for Obama), plus 14 different countries. Without no access to radio, Pug’s fans became his broadcast network. (The offer still stands on joepugmusic.com.)

Along the way, Pug garnered big love from a variety of critics. The young singer/songwriter who, metaphorically, drives his own bus has been favorably compared to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Josh Ritter, and Steve Earle, a singer whose poetry comes from the heart but speaks to the common man. This very young man – Pug is only 25 – draws constant comparisons to a very old soul.

With Pug’s second release, Messenger, you should be able to say you knew Pug when.

To learn more about this guy with a guitar, click the “play” button and listen to Pug’s podcast.

Justin Townes Earle’s Midnight at the Movies can be downloaded at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKEiePB6IVM.

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