I don’t seem to come across all that many Father-Son duos in the musical world. I find that all too often the children of genius musicians tend to fall quite a distance short of their predecessors (see Dweezil Zappa, Sean Lennon, Adam Cohen). These musicians usually seem to occupy roles as frontmen for less impactful bands, but ride some limited success due to their parent’s fans curiosity. I have been a completely obsessed Wilco fan for a few years, so naturally I could not help but be excited by the announcement of a collaborative project between Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer Tweedy, who would occupy the drumming duties on a new album which began as a Jeff Tweedy solo project. I have never-ending respect for Jeff Tweedy as a song writer, but I could not get as excited for Sukierae as I would have been for a new Wilco album. There was this nagging perception that this album who be an enjoyable but relatively unoriginal album created through a desire for the two family members to get together and make some music. Sukierae was released on September 23, and since that day the Tweedy team has been repeatedly proved my preconceived notions wrong, as I cannot seem to get enough of this record.
Sukierae is a double album that is true to its format. The first disc has a folk-rock feel that is slightly more upbeat and edgy than the second disk, which is primarily comprised of soft acoustic folk tunes. While the two discs have clearly separate identities, they work incredibly well together, and provide the listener with an opportunity for the listener to select precisely what Tweedy mood they are in. The whole package is rather “Low Key” and pleasant, but the first disc has an extra injection of dissonance in songs like “World Away” and “Diamond Light Pt. 1” that show the classic Jeff Tweedy originality. Overall I am having quite a bit of difficulty choosing which disc I like more.
Returning to the point about the children of famous musicians, I think there is a distinct difference that separates Spencer Tweedy from other musicians in his same position. He occupies a fundamentally different role in music than his father. Jeff Tweedy is a frontman, singer, songwriter, and guitarist, whereas Spencer is holding down the rhythm section as a drummer. There is no need for him to attempt to live up to his father, and he can take a uniquely different approach to music and not be compared to the greatness of papa Jeff. At the ripe young age of 18, Spencer Tweedy can already hold more than his own as a drummer, and he is busy carving out his own distinct style. He plays with a certain muted sound which softly pads the album, but has a high degree of intricacy for those that pay attention. His playing features quick and subtle trips and rolls that give it a unique stumbling feel. I will be very curious to see how he progresses, since he undoubtedly has not reached his peak.
A few more quick hits before I leave you to listen to this record. I like how the listener can here aspects of various Wilco albums mixed into Sukierae. Lead guitar lines from A Ghost is Born, the acoustic vibe from the softer songs of The Whole Love, and the overall folk feel of Sky Blue Sky all make their way onto Sukierae. I also very much enjoy they backing vocals occasionally provided by the pair of vocalists of Lucius. Jeff’s acoustic guitar work is just lovely. This album is a must-hear for Wilco fans, and for fans of laid-back folk in general.