“On the plane ride home from Seattle, after finishing the record the night before…Picture me in my seat staring out the window marinating on what had just happened…In a giant metal bird, flying above the weather below…”
Constrained by neither labels or genre, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds exude the soul and funk sensibilities of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings with the tenacity and veracity of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s southern rock. One of rock’s greatest gems, Sister Sparrow continues to make their mark on the scene with their energetic blend of Americana/rock/soul/funk on their new album, The Weather Below.
Produced by Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Vance Joy) at the infamous Bear Creek Studio, Sister Sparrow singer/songwriter Arleigh Kincheloe explains how the band engulfed themselves in their latest project:
“I knew I wanted to do something different with this record, something that would set it apart from our other projects. Working with Ryan was how we were able to do that. He and I took my songs and stripped them down, built them back up. A lot of love and thought went into every note on this record. We lived and breathed it. We literally lived at the studio for 3 weeks. Incredible to give ourselves the opportunity to have no distractions and only music to think about. Ryan is so awesome, we clicked on everything. He and I had the same ideas about everything, the same vision. So lucky.”
The new album also finds Sister Sparrow parting ways with the traditional record company blueprint. Kincheloe notes, “We are putting this out on our own, as our own label, with the help of our amazing fans (The Party Fowl, using PledgeMusic) and an incredible company (30 Tigers) who will allow us to be available to the world. This is our first time putting something out without the help of an outside label, it’s a big deal for us. We’re putting our faith in ourselves, our songs, our band. I feel more confident in this than anything I’ve ever done. I think this record has a lot of heart. Certainly a lot of my heart.”
The finished product speaks for itself.
Beginning with “Borderline,” Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds lay down the law right away, signaling to the listener that they’re in for an engaging sonic encounter. Josh Myers’ superlative twang on the bass is supported by the sweet, smooth strokes of guitar player Sasha Brown, all the meanwhile Sister Sparrow drummer Dan Boyden is an absolute beast on this first track, laying down everything you would want to hear from a power drummer on a great opening song. Not to mention the rich, soaring horn section of the band lead by Phil Rodriguez (trumpet) and Brian Graham (saxaphones). The pairing of the horns with Kincheloe’s sultry vocals throughout the album lift the music to a different level.
“Sugar,” a song that we at L4LM were lucky enough to premiere, sounds like a song plucked out of the writer’s room at the historic Motown Records. Pure joy. Says Kincheloe, “It’s a true story about a first kiss. As the song was coming together, he and I were dancing around the room and having a ball… It was a really fun song to write, and I think that comes out in the music.” She contiunes, “These songs are my favorite. I love them. They are full of my history, my childhood, my experience, my family. I tried to think of what inspired me, what made me feel something. My family reared it’s beautiful and insane head. I am who I am because of them, and my songs are me, therefore these songs are made of all of them.”
“Prison Cells” is another strong composition. Starting at a slow march, the song gradually builds into a triumphant toe-tapper that encourages us to indulge in the moment. Kincheloe notes the song is about “getting in trouble with your best friends and letting the fun takeover,” a notion all too many of us take for granted. The album continues with “Mama Knows,” Kincheloe’s ode to mothers everywhere. A laid-back, soul and blues number, Kincheloe sings, “If you ain’t got love, then you ain’t got nothin.'”
Delving into a bit of a Latin flair, “Dissapear” and even “Every Road” capture Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds in a different and flattering light. The grooves are sharp and the lyrics powerful. One of the great things about this album is the variety. There’s a little bit for everyone’s taste on The Weather Below. The following track, “Don’t Be Jealous” is a great synthesis of the band: one girl and a bunch of guys out on the road, traveling around and playing great music. Kincheloe’s brother Jackson Kincheloe makes his presence known loud and clear on harmonica on the track, blowing some gritty runs amidst his sister’s sterling vocals.
“We Need A Love” finds Kincheloe taking her voice to gorgeous heights with terrific support and interplay from the band’s fierce horn section. It’s the kind of stuff that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. “Cold Blooded,” a straight up renegade track, sounds like something that Clint Eastwood would ride his horse into town on. Right out of the old west, the harmonica work of Jackson Kincheloe is awesome paired against Brown’s shredding guitar.
“Catch Me If You Can” puts a final exclamation on the album, reminding us of the essence of Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds: great swing and attitude, excellent instrumentation, majestic vocals, and an awesome swell of energy. As Sister Sparrow herself tells us: “To survive you have to fly unscathed, uninterrupted, and unflinchingly. You gotta look away from the ground in order to see the sky. Leave what’s bad behind. Let the weather do whatever it will. Rise above it. The Weather Below.”