Jake Bugg’s self-titled first album reached #1 on the UK charts. His second album Shangri La was produced by Rick Rubin.
The 20-year old singer-songwriter has been profiled in Rolling Stone, appeared just last week on The Tonight Show (for the 3rd time), has also turned up on Letterman and twice on Ellen DeGeneres, is playing at Bonnaroo 2014, has over 550,000 fans on Facebook and over 380,000 followers on Twitter, recently recorded an excellent live session with KEXP and a really good Tiny Desk Concert for NPR.
And on Thursday, he played an afternoon set for about 100 fans inside a record store — Monster Music & Movies — in a strip mall in Charleston, S.C.
I ran into a couple of friends who had also made the drive from Savannah and chatted with a variety of other folks — a couple from Syracuse who were vacationing and had seen an ad in the paper, a few high school students who had “signed out early,” a young mother with her adorable infant who had heard about the gig on The Bridge 105.5
Despite his fame in the UK and through much of the worldwide music community, Jake Bugg is still a new quantity to many Americans, especially down here in the South. It’s a little bit of a puzzle, especially considering the beauty and even wisdom of his music. My friend Orlando Montoya, best known for his many years with Georgia Public Broadcasting, chose Bugg’s “Lightning Bolt” as his 2013 Song of the Year, but suggested that the singer’s East Midlands twang might limit his appeal to mainstream America. I don’t know about that, but I was sure thrilled to see Bugg in a free and intimate show, even if he played just five songs before greeting fans and signing records.
In person Jake Bugg was even better than I expected — and I expected a lot. His guitar work is casually brilliant — fast and subtle without a visible trace of thought about what he’s doing. He has excellent volume control with that acoustic guitar too, just like he does with his voice, which is bigger, warmer, and richer than it sounds on records and in videos. He seems to have the instincts of great American bluegrass musicians.
As strong as the instrumentation is on his records, the emotional arcs of Bugg’s songs seem crafted for a solo singer and acoustic guitar. They’re just beautiful. Here’s betting that, even if Bugg were to vanish from the scene tomorrow, a handful of his songs will get recorded over and over by other artists in the coming decades.
Here’s Thursday’s set list:
1. “Me And You”
2. “Storm Passes Away”
3. “Strange Creatures”
4. “Slumville Sunrise”
5. “Lightning Bolt”
I didn’t even know “Strange Creatures” — a haunting bonus track on Shangri La.
In person, Jake Bugg is better and healthier looking than in some of the rather pale images circulating on the web. He can come across as distant in some of his media appearances, but I found him genuine, easy, even a little shy. I mentioned that I knew The Silver Palms, who had opened for him a few times, and told him that their video for “Superstar” had just been released. He said he would check it out.
The albums and posters made kind of a nice backdrop for photos I thought. A lot of these shots are really similar — no room to move around — but I decided to post a bunch anyway. Jake Bugg has an edgy teen idol thing going on, and I have a feeling some fans out there will want to see everything they can.
ATTENTION TUMBLR USERS, JAKE BUGG FANS, ETC: It is a violation of copyright to download and then repost these images without permission. I have already shared a couple on my own tumblr that you can share — here and here. If there is another photo that you would like to share, you may share one, but only if you also include a link back to this post.