Berry Gordy may not have envisioned the intersection of Rock, Blues and Soul when he was drafting the Motown blueprint, but there can be little doubt that, when done right, that particular genre hybrid is among the most powerful forces in the musical world. The combination of blistering guitars, wailing harmonica, a smoking horn section and a smolderingly raw voice rising above it all is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds is that very thing, done right to the 10th power. Sister Sparrow is the Blues-shouting alter ego of Arleigh Kincheloe, who grew up in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains and started singing with her parents’ band at age 9. She began writing songs as a teenager and moved to New York City when she was 18, accompanied by her harp-blowing brother, Jackson, with the intent of assembling a band capable of interpreting her material.
Although the band has undergone significant shifts in the last two years (five founding members departed in the time period), Sister Sparrow and Jackson rebuilt the Dirty Birds into an even more formidable force, both on stage and in the studio, as evidenced on their third and finest album, The Weather Below, released in May to rapturous acclaim from fans and critics alike.
The Dirty Birds’ original lineup had plenty of swing and swagger (seek out their boldly syncopated live version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”), but this new assemblage is a murderer’s row of Jazz, Funk and Soul journeymen who bring incalculable expertise to the band. Meanwhile, as it has been from the band’s 2008 start, Jackson Kincheloe’s incendiary harmonica courses through the air and explodes like a firework shell, and Sister Sparrow’s throaty rasp powers a soulful wail that could rival Grace Potter, Dana Fuchs and Sharon Jones.
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