Tweet spent the better part of the last decade floundering: her vocal trio Sugah tried for six years to get a record deal, and when the group dissolved a few years ago she moved in with her parents in Panama City, Florida. As the story goes, she drowned her depression in booze and before long was considering suicide--a state of mind reflected in the intro to her recent debut, Southern Hummingbird (Elektra). But then she got a call from Missy Elliott--whom she'd met in the mid-90s--asking her to sing some backing vocals. While she was in the studio she picked up a guitar and reeled off one of her own tunes; Missy, impressed, got her an audience with the Elektra brass, and Missy's pal Timbaland produced the single "Oops (Oh My)," which climbed to number one on Billboard's R & B chart. The hit's lyrically lite ("Oops, there goes my shirt up over my head") but the real-life melodrama surfaces elsewhere ("Smoking Cigarettes," "Drunk"). The bulk of the album is occupied by floaty ballads with spare, gentle beats and keyboard-dominated arrangements; that guitar comes out once in a while too. Tweet shapes the slight melodies with remarkable delicacy, rarely relying on sheer firepower--even though she's got the voice for it. She also keeps her cool on the more upbeat stuff, but reportedly the live show is more extroverted. Opening act Nappy Roots, on their new Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz (Atlantic), celebrate the pleasures of soul food, marijuana, hooch, and unpicked hair. In "Ballin' on a Budget" the Kentucky six-piece offers a nice contrast to hip-hop's usual conspicuous consumption: "No pager, no cell phone, no access at all / Just a pack of Dutch Masters and a pint of alcohol." The infectious mix of organ riffs, psychedelic guitar, southern bounce beats, and twangy rapping brings to mind the polystylism of Atlanta's Dungeon Family, though it's not nearly as sprawling. Tuesday, July 2, 7:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Ruven Afanador, Darryl Tooley.