It was a hard decision, but Lonesome Onry and Mean tore ourselves away from the atomic rock party at the Continental Club's tenth anniversary celebration Saturday to see Joe Pug at Mango's. The 26-year-old Chicagoan, who opened solo for Steve Earle at the Crighton Theater in Conroe on last year's Townes tour, brought a nifty three-piece ensemble as backup this time, and they really fleshed out Pug's Earle-ish Americana tunes that have gotten him nominated for the Americana Music Association's New Artist of the Year.
The instrumental fireworks in Pug's show were provided by none other than Bucky Baxter, whom LOM hadn't seen since Earle played Xcess on Richmond in 1988. After years of touring with Earle, Baxter graduated to Bob Dylan's band, where he held down a key slot from 1992-1997. Baxter's other credits include Ryan Adams, R.E.M., and Joe Henry, and a jazzy 1999 self-released album called Most Likely, No Problem.
Pug's performance and the crowd it drew is one of the most encouraging things LOM has witnessed on the local music scene this year. Approximately 150 paid $8 to hear Pug work his way through his album Messenger.
We were surprised at how many people knew the lyrics to Pug's songs, particularly the poignant "Speak Plainly, Diana," the closest thing he has to a "hit," and "I Do My Father's Drugs." From the second Pug walked onstage, the youngish crowd moved down front and Pug fed off the energy and enthusiasm in spite of a sound system that one wag described as "a bullhorn in front of an 8-track player."
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We took Baxter back to the Continental with us in time to catch a torrid set by New Duncan Imperials. It was a fine nightcap to a great and varied evening of music in H-Town.