With his stormy dark eyes, and hair that is a cross between The Beatles and Justin Bieber, Bugg is the young anti-pop star. With an appearance that will make girls swoon, one would assume he was all fluff and bubble gum. That, he is not.
Raised in Nottingham, England he found his artistic side at an early age, 12 to be exact. Bugg instead took up a different diversion. He learned to play the guitar at 12 years old.
While he worked to hone his craft, Bugg caught the attention of BBC and was chosen to appear on their “Introducing” segment at the Glastonbury Festival in 2011. He was 17. While his path to this national attention is not clear, what is clear is that a year later he has finally made a splash.
His debut album “Two Fingers” is setting the UK on fire. He surpassed expectations and reached #1 on the UK charts. With an unexpected upset, Bugg bounced out Leona Lewis and Mumford & Sons out on the top spot. His album has garnered attention in other European countries as well. Is America ready to embrace a young man that does not fit in our pop music box?
He claims in an interview with “Uncut Magazine,” “I’m really a big fan of Donovan, Don McLean, Robert Johnson – a lot of the old Mississippi delta blues men. I try to absorb as many influences into my music as I can.”
Bugg further claims musical influence from the likes of, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. In a time of Beiber’s, Minaj’s, and Hip-Hop, one can wonder if the American ear is ready for a new and different sound.
The title track, “Two Fingers” opens with a simple riff on an acoustic guitar. His voice is familiar, yet new. For the new listeners the lyrics may not match the baby face. Some may deem the lyrical content to mature for the tweens, that he cannot have the life experience for the adults to get on board. His place may be in the very precarious 17-25 year crowd. It is not though.
With opening lyrics, “I drink to remember, I smoke to forget…” Bugg could make it hard for older listeners to relate due to his age. At the same time he reaches far beyond the teen set that one would expect him to seek. This may put him into a hard to categorize fan base.
That aside, as the crescendo of the track builds; it weaves in drums and additional strings in a instant, yet flawless way. You can imagine a time past, where bands sweat while playing and young girls cried in the tightly packed crowds.
The syrup of the southern influences is very evident, so are his British roots. He melds a sound that is both old and new. If the adult listener can forget his youth, it is easy to be swept away in nostalgia while the chorus of, “…so I hold two fingers up to yesterday…” is very modern. This song is lyrically sound and is reminiscent of The Beach Boys, with a twang that will appeal to country fans, while not alienating others. A nice simple song, with depth.
A standout track is “Country Song” the deftly played, clear-sounding guitar brings you to a roadside bar, the air saturated with stale beer and cigarette smoke. The type of place Bugg may have played if he lived in Mississippi years ago.
His light British accent is soft, almost Adele like. It also may take the American listener to Ireland. It has a androgynous folksy accent, with a beautifully picked acoustic. The guitar plays almost harp like; you can imagine the fingers deftly plucking every string. No further accompaniment is needed. He shows his talent both vocally and instrumental. This is truly a “Country Song” and so pure in its simplicity. James Blunt but without the angst.
“Trouble Town” switches it up. With an electric acoustic, Bugg brings it quick with this song. No slow build up. Meat right away. This is a knee slapping honkey-tonk. There may even be an upright bass present, which is an often overlooked instrument in modern music.
While the track is good Bugg’s accent and the running together of words may make it hard to understand on a first listen. It is a fun song with solid vocals but, it is in need of a bit of enunciation.
The last sampler on this EP is “Slide.” It is an ethereal song, very beautiful, but heavily auto tuned. Bugg’s voice does not need this which makes it tolerable. It is auto tune how it should be used. To expand on an already sound vocal. Minus the auto tune Bugg goes back to simplicity.
This is the type of song you listen to on a dreary rainy day. This is a marriage of Guns-N Roses “The Rain” and James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” meshed perfectly.
Starting this journey with Bugg, you see his shaggy hair and baby face. By the time it ends all of that is gone. He is talented beyond his years, and while there are minor flaws to the tracks. When you hear them is the time to remind yourself, he is 18. This young man has nowhere to go but up.
Currently on tour in the US, only time will tell if America is ready to embrace an authentic talent, with an old, old soul.