Tweed Funk – Love Is (review)

Tweed Funk – Love Is (Tweed Tone Records) review

As their name suggests, Milwaukee’s Tweed Funk do it old school – recalling a time when horn-driven R&B bands would criss-cross the country, playing a hot n’ sweaty show, all fueled by live musicians.  Digital technology came along in the early Eighties, making it cheaper to tour (you could replace that entire horn line with the touch of a button), but something was lost in the transition.  The guys in Tweed Funk are all about bringing that style back, with their second album, Love Is.  Take a funky drummer, add in some slinky guitar, and a lead singer that’s been around the block a few times, and you’ve got a tasty combination – a simmering blend of blues, soul and funk.

The core trio of Smokey on vocals, JD Optekar on guitar, and Marcus Gibbons on drums, is joined by guitar ace Greg Koch, who co-produced the record, and adds some killer fretwork, especially on the Johnny “Guitar” Watson cover “A Real Mother For Ya.”  “Gettin’ Home,” a slow-burn blues, has some mean Hammond B3 fills courtesy of guest Jimmy Voegeli, while the call and response “Dancemaker,” features some fine backup vocals, and sounds like it would be even better live.  And, let’s hear it for “Fine Wine” – when’s the last time a song spoke highly of OLDER women?  The lyrics go: “I love her so / from her head down to her feet / after all these years / she still makes it beat.”  Now, there’s a welcome change!

There’s also quite a few surprises on the record as well.  Take the mostly-instrumental “Smooth Taste,” which starts with some African rhythms, then builds with horns (recalling “Vehicle,” by Ides of March), before letting drummer Gibbons turn it loose for a hot solo at the end.  Then, there’s “Fragile,” which shows the guys can reel in the groove and settle into a soulful ballad.  The album ends with a faithful take on James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” ending things on a feverish note, and begging for the repeat button.

For a taste of classic, good-time R&B – Tweed Funk lives up to their name, putting the FUN back in funk.  –Tony Peters