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Published: 2011/03/01
by Brian Robbins

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

Modern Vintage Recordings

Referring to Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds as a funk band just doesn’t get the job done. Don’t get me wrong – there’s all the nasty-ass, hip-grinding, sweat-soaked-but-cool-as-hell funk on their self-titled debut album that you could ever want, but there’s also so much more.

First, just so’s you know who you’re dealing with here: The Dirty Birds themselves are comprised of four horns, one guitar, a bassist and drummer who obviously share a brain (or at least the groove lobe), and a harmonica player. The crazy bastards can all sing, as well – with all the soul of a choir of drunken angels.

And if that wasn’t enough, out front is Sister Sparrow herself, Arleigh Kincheloe, the human equivalent of a Bose L1 P.A. system when it comes to proving that you don’t need a large object to project a big sound. The gal can do everything from belt it out like a cross between Susan Tedeschi, Janis Joplin, and Sharon Jones (“Untie My Shoelaces” or “Freight Train”) to lay-it-down-sweet, twangy, and Patsy Cline-ish (“Just My Eyes”).

In the meantime, The Dirty Birds navigate every twist and turn Sister Sparrow throws their way (or is it the other way around?) with ease. Check it out: here we have some smoky big-smile reggae (“Boom Boom”, “Vices” – Blondie lives!); over here we find 70s-vintage bluesrock reminiscent of J. Geils on a hot night (Arleigh’s harp-blowing brother Jackson channels Magic Dick on “Quicksand”); and over here we find a few things that just can’t be labeled so easily (the tango-on-acid of “Baby From Space”, for instance), but are fun nonetheless. And through it all are woven threads of sexy funk. Bottom line: this album is just plain fun.

Write these names down or commit them to memory: beyond the Kincheloes we’ve already mentioned, their cousin Bram mans the drums, locked together with bassist Aidan Carroll in a rhythmic cage match that’s all about the groove. Guitarist Sasha Brown can skank, smoke, slice, dice, and twang as needed. And then there are those horns: Ryan Snow (trombone), JJ Byars (alto sax), Cole Kamen-Green (trumpet), and Johnny Butler (baritone sax). These Birds lay down a sound that’s full and adventurous while never sounding crowded or overblown. That’s the thing: for a band that’s fairly young, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds play with a maturity you wouldn’t expect for a few more years.

Lucky for us all, we don’t have to wait. This is good shit – right now.

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