At only 25 years old, Chicago singer-songwriter Joe Pug has the lyrical chops of a man twice his age and just as much grit...if not more. With this winter's Messenger, Pug jumps out of the staid strummer pack with self-damning lines like "I undressed somebody's daughter, then complained about her looks," from one of the album's stronger tracks, "Not So Sure." Pug's previous release, 2008 EP Nation of Heat, gathered steam with all the right people, including both Steve and Justin Townes Earle. M. Ward, meanwhile, quickly began championing him to blogs and print media alike. Vocally, Pug falls somewhere in between a subdued John Hiatt and the late, great Jim Croce's storytelling swing. Those are both pretty big names to bandy about so early on, but Pug shows no signs of disappointing us anytime soon.