Jake Bugg: tunes for a troubled town

Jake Bugg

Thursday found me cloistered in a Midwestern hotel room preparing for a court hearing. Complete silence is oppressive, but I can’t work with a TV or radio on. Solution: play Jake Bugg’s “Trouble Town” on repeat. Sometime between dusk and dawn, it occurred to me that this song has to be on my mix in honor (lamentation?) of the shutdown:

Stuck in speed bump city / Where the only thing that’s pretty / Is the thought of getting out.

Jake Bugg is a nineteen-year-old British singer-songwriter who has been compared to Bob Dylan (including by the friend who introduced me to Bugg’s music). But when I offer this comparison as a shorthand for describing Bugg’s sound to friends, I am met mostly with skepticism, even outright indignation: How could anyone compare anyone to the great Dylan, the pillar of Americana? I know you’re scoffing, but hear me out. I’m not saying the Nottingham teenager is the next Dylan. But I am saying that his warbling, rough-around-the-edges voice and world-weary lyrics combine to form something that is really quite special.

Yes, everyone sings about heartbreak and hard times. But Bugg has a knack for condensing a scene into a single line and weaving those lines into a story: “He’s down in the kitchen drinking White Lightning / He’s with my momma, they’re yelling and fighting / It’s not the first time praying for silence / Something is changing, changing, changing.”

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