Tweed Funk – Come Together | Album Review

tweedfunkcdTweed Funk – Come Together

Tweed Funk Records

10 songs – 40 minutes

Founded in Milwaukee six years ago and winners of five Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) awards in the past four years, Tweed Funk delivers their usual mix of Memphis-style soul blues – most with a positive, upbeat message — on this release, the fourth in their arsenal.

A 2014 BluesBlast Award nominee for soul blues album of the year for their previous release, First Time Lucky, the six-piece horn band is fronted by native Chicagoan Joseph “Smokey” Holman, a pleasing tenor who recorded with the Domestics for Motown in the ‘60s and for the Windy City’s famed Curtom label with the band Love’s Children in the ‘70s, when he was a protégé of Curtis Mayfield.

Holman acquired his nickname while fighting in informal boxing tournaments while a U.S. Marine, and he’s been a fixture on the Milwaukee music scene since the mid-‘80s, when he relocated after working in the steel plants in Gary, Ind.

All of the material on Come Together is original and was composed by the core band, which consists of Eric Madunic, a multi-instrumentalist who holds down bass and contributes keyboards and guitar, percussionist Dave Schoepke, guitarist JD Optekar and Andrew Spadafora, who doubles on tenor and baritone sax. Chrissy Dzioba and Sara Moilanen contribute backing vocals on five of the ten tracks, and making a guest appearance throughout is longtime Roomful Of Blues trumpet powerhouse Doug Woolverton.

A burst from the horn section kicks off “Light Up The Night,” a funky number that features a heavy bass line and instructs “tell the haters you don’t care” as it uses “Alice In Wonderland” references to describe the difficulties folks face in life. Spadafora and Woolverton are featured throughout. “Don’t Give Up” provides words of inspiration about following your dreams and “walk with purpose to your destiny” atop a steady Memphis beat before the Latin flavored “Muse” describes the affects a woman’s touch and “sweet soul lovin’” have on the singer after a difficult day.

The pace slows for “Sweet Music,” which carries a similar message. It’s an autobiographical number in which Holman describes how the power of music helped him overcome the pitfalls he faced in life and career despite the scars. The theme continues for “Come Together,” which picks up where the previous tune left off while encouraging unity to overcome strife.

The band deliver a blues waltz for “Embrace,” which eliminates “the worry lines” from the singer’s face, before getting funky again for the instrumental “Who Is This.” Madunic’s bass fuels “Love Ain’t Easy,” which describes the pitfalls of a relationship even when both sides want it to work out. The album takes a dark turn with “Bullet,” a haunting, minor-key memory about the apparent suicide of a life-saving friend, before “Soul Rockin,” another paean to the power of love, concludes the set.

If you like horn bands and good, old-fashioned soul, you’ll really like this one. The musicianship here is of the first order and the material shines. Available through CDBaby or directly through the band’s website (address above).

REVIEWER’S NOTE: Shortly after the release of this CD, the band announced that lead singer Smokey had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects plasma cells in the blood. He’s currently undergoing chemotherapy with plans for a stem-cell transplant. As a result, the band has suspended all performances scheduled between mid-July and mid-October. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Smokey, his family and the entire Tweed Funk operation.

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