Tweedy's father/son pairing delivers powerful debut with 'Sukierae'
Tweedy (dBpm Records, 2014)
Jeff Tweedy is a talented man: cofounder of the influential alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, leader of the critically acclaimed rock band Wilco, Grammy-nominated producer and collaborator with the likes of music legends such as Mavis Staples. His stage clothes are even on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It should be said, however, that this new album doesn’t need Jeff Tweedy’s accolades to be worthy of attention. It stands on its own, and it stands quite tall.
Sukierae is an exciting and intriguing album for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the composition of the band. The band name “Tweedy,” which might initially conjure the notion of a solo album, instead cleverly identifies a familial reality. Tweedy is that most rare entity, a father and son rock band: Jeff Tweedy takes his usual position as lead singer and guitar player while his son Spencer plays the drums. Even the most dedicated Jeff Tweedy fan may have to admit that young Spencer’s drumming steals the show at times. Who could not stand up and take notice at the rambunctious drum rolls in “Diamond Light, Pt 1” or the rollicking beat of the album opener, “Please Don’t Let Me Be So Understood”?
But Sukierae is not just about virtuoso drumming or great production values, but good songwriting. From the bass-heavy groove of “Low Key” to the gentle uplift of “Summer Noon,” the album has a striking variety of styles and moods with thoughtful and poetic lyrics. While leaning a little heavily in a folksy, melancholic direction at times, the album (inspired by Jeff’s wife and Spencer’s mother, Susan Miller Tweedy—whose nickname is “Sukierae”—and her recent battle with cancer) nevertheless retains a raw quality. If limitations appear, they’re due to the sheer duration of the album. With 20 tracks, the Tweedys prove they're in it for the long haul. That’s a pretty inspiring example for a father and son to give.
This review appeared in the November 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 11, page 42).