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Southern Fork Americana Fest: Robert Ellis and Joe Pug

Wed Oct 12th, 2016
The Tuning Fork,

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Doors open
All Ages
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Vector Arena, 95bFM and Under The Radar are proud to present Robert Ellis and Joe Pug as part of the Southern Fork Americana Fest 2016.

A bonafide regular to The Tuning Fork, having played here twice in 2014, the second time in the very first incarnation of the Southern Fork Americana Fest, country songwriter Robert Ellis is joining us for a third time to celebrate the release of his new, self-titled album.

Ellis made a name for himself in Houston, Texas. Inspired by the country, folk, and bluegrass records he heard while growing up in southern Texas. His audience grew as a result of his weekly residency, which was nicknamed Whiskey Wednesdays for their rowdy nature and Ellis went on to earn even more fans on the strength of his self-released debut album, The Great Rearranger.

One of those converted fans was George Fontaine, Sr., President of New West Records, who signed Ellis in 2011. Photographs was released that summer. It mixes acoustic folk songs with uptempo country numbers and was selected by American Songwriter as one of its Top 50 albums for that year.

Ellis toured the United States and Europe before relocating to Nashville. His more eclectic sophomore album, The Lights from the Chemical Plant, was recorded there, produced by Jacquire King and released in February 2014.

After extensive touring and experiencing the dissolution of his marriage, he returned to recording. He self-produced his next album, simply titled Robert Ellis, which was recorded at Sugar Hill Studios in Houston. It was engineered by Steve Christiansen and mixed by John Agnello. This album was released in June 2016.

Robert Ellis has named his new album after himself and the reason is clear. The album is both his most personal statement yet and a summation of his career thus far. It’s the most accurate reflection yet of Robert Ellis (the man). It's analytical and emotional, calculated in spots and improvisational in others, restless, peaceful, never indifferent, never dispassionate.

If the opening notes on Joe Pug’s new album Windfall are a bit disorienting, his fans won’t likely be surprised. The Austin, Texas singer songwriter has made a habit of defying expectations so the piano-driven “Bright Beginnings” and the atmospheric rumination of “Great Hosannas” are just further indication that he’s quite comfortable stepping outside of the guy-with-a-guitar trappings of the genre.

His rise has been as improbable as it has been impressive. After dropping out of college and taking on work as a carpenter in Chicago, he got his musical start by providing CDs for his fans to pass along to their friends. This led to a string of sold out shows and a record deal with Nashville indie Lightning Rod Records (Jason Isbell, Billy Joe Shaver).

As he toured behind Messenger (2010) and The Great Despiser (2012) it was with a band that looked as much like a jazz trio as an Americana band. “I never quite found a live band that captured what I was aiming for until I connected with Greg (Tuohey–electric guitar) and Matt (Schuessler–upright bass). The following years would have them on the road for over four hundred shows, including stops at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and The Newport Folk Festival.

The relentless grind of four years of nonstop touring had taken its toll though, and by late 2013 he was ready to call it quits. Thankfully after some respite Pug was ready to get rolling again. He set up camp in Lexington, Kentucky in 2014 to record, he did so with some of the best songs he has ever written. The result is a collection of songs that are as close as we’ve gotten to a road map to Pug’s ambitions. He has collected plenty of the requisite Dylan comparisons over his young career but on this record it’s easier to hear the sway of more contemporary influences like Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams and M.Ward.

As the saying goes, “All’s well that ends well.” Joe Pug didn’t call it quits after all. He’s engaged to be married and still drinks bourbon on occasion. His new album, Windfall, was released in March 2015.

alternative, country/folk, Robert Ellis, Joe Pug


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