"Hymn #101" - Joe Pug
Had the Bob Dylan haunting the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961 and 1962 augmented his sociopolitical preoccupation with a wide-eyed spiritual awareness, he might have composed a spare, literate neo-folk marvel such as "Hymn #101." Carefully written and plainly presented (just guitar and voice, thank you), "Hymn #101" glows with humanity and intellect, its simple Dylanesque melody hosting any number of unexpected observations and descriptions, delivered with a voice that channels not only the great one from Hibbing but multiple generations of "next Dylans" as well, from John Prine to Steve Earle to Josh Ritter and then some.
While a potent cultural critique is layered into the song's semi-mysterious lyrics, what moves me the most here are the moments when Pug reveals a metaphysical depth not often encountered on the indie scene. The conclusion he works up to is all but breathtaking: "Will you recognize my face/When God's awful grace/Strips me of my jacket and my vest/And reveals all the treasure in my chest."
"Hymn #101" can be found on Joe Pug's debut EP, Nation of Heat, self-released in May; MP3 via his web site. And by the way, can this be his real name? Joe Pug? His biographical information is so scanty that I suspect he's intent on another Dylanesque maneuver: romantic obfuscation of his past.