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Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

Album review by John Powell

Sister Sparrow And The Dirty Birds

“I’m the kind of girl that wants it all,” Sister Sparrow, (AKA Arleigh Kincheloe), sings on “Untie My Shoelaces”, the first track on her group’s self-titled album. No doubt, from the first moment she releases her sultry, slinky vocals you’re well-aware of what she’s capable of. Her voice is acutely attuned to her lyrics and the music- nay, to the very essence of Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. Your biggest decision will be where to put the record: next to Sharon Jones and the Dapps Kings, Aretha Franklin, or on a shelf all its own?

The horn section, comprised of Ryan Snow (trombone), JJ Byars (alto sax), Cole Kamen- Green (trumpet), and Johnny Butler (baritone sax), is like a Greek Chorus to Arleigh’s soliloquy, interjecting vibrant coos and runs that keep each song moving. An added bonus to the horns is Jackson Kincheloe’s harmonica, mashing sweet soul with down- and-dirty blues. Aligned with Bram Kincheloe, drumming like a New Orleans marching band backbone, Aiden Carrol’s consistently bouncy bass, and Sasha Brown’s spunky guitar, this nine-piece orchestra is capable of all modes of sound.

Take the reggae-tinged key track “Boom Boom”, driven by Sasha’s guitar and a galumphing bass line. “I’ll make your heart go boom boom boom,” Arleigh sings in such a way that you want to shimmy your shoulders. Jackson’s harmonica lies in the folds of groove and then the horns play to the off-beat in classic ska style. You can hear Arleigh’s coy smile as she sings. “Don’t let me go,” she warns, “I don’t know when I’ll be back on shore.” Without even seeing a picture of the gorgeous Sparrow, you’re sure she’s not only lovely, but knows it.

“Rock on it” is like the counterpoint to Beyonce’s “Put a ring on it.” Instead of asking for commitment and true love, Arleigh says, “Something should be cooking, baby/but no match was ever lit with ‘maybe’.” Lyrically, and for this soul-type music in particular, Arleigh comes up with some great stuff. She’s witty, sly, and able to turn a phrase like “Tell me where would all the fun be in that?” and make it rich with undercurrents of sexuality.

My only complaint with this album might be that every song is about love/passion/ romance/sex/relationships. Granted, that’s the name of the game with soul/funk, but whether it’s the southern belle in “Just My Eyes”, the sea nymph in “Baby From Space”, or the survivor in “My House”, Sister Sparrow is stuck on a heart and groin both in flames. I do love “Eddy”, a story of a “man gone wrong.” It’s a slow blues hymn laced with harmonica and it’s a classic sort of sin-song from a woman that now knows better.

When you get down to it, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds is a treat. Please don’t let the album cover, (Arleigh’s penetrating eyes giving you a sideways glance), trick you into thinking this album is a girl’s singer/songwriter diary. No, this is a full- band’s album; from beginning to end a cooperative slice of Brooklyn soul.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re in love, ready to break a few hearts, or heartbroken, SSATDB has a song for you.


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