If you go
What: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
When: 8:30 p.m.Wednesday, March 27
Where: The Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder
More info: www.foxtheatre.com
The first time you hear the vocals of Arleigh Kincheloe, you'll look back and remember where you were and what you were doing. As frontwoman of the seven-piece soul collective Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, she commands stages from the Tennessee hills of Bonnaroo to New York City's legendary Beacon Theatre. Her voice simmers against a scorching horn section, harmonica wails and heavy percussion.
The band, with Brooklyn origins, will make a stop Wednesday at The Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, and Thursday at Bluebird Theater , 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Regulars on the festival circuit, the group often averages 150 shows per year, clocking miles to deliver an explosive blend of blues, funk, jazz and gospel. We caught up with Kincheloe to talk tour must-haves, Aretha Franklin and what's currently on rotation on her playlist.
"It's great to get back on the road and hit some towns we haven't seen in a while," said Kincheloe. "So far so good. I never leave home without my eye mask, earplugs or Slippery Elm Lozenges for my voice."
Kincheloe's raspy roar fills whatever size venue she happens to play. In just a few notes, audiences can grasp the heartache, joy, pain and blisteringly raw emotion that seeps from her incredible range. At times her motions and belts are reminiscent of Janis Joplin, at others she possesses the poise and grace of a Motown maven.
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds craft the kind of tunes that can bring the house down and also offer up ballads that incite a reflective sway.
The band's rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has all the compelling power of a hymn escaping from a choir member on a holy Sunday.
"I'm always thinking and daydreaming about songs to cover," said Kincheloe. "We started doing 'To Love Somebody' by the Bee Gees recently, which has been so fun. I'd love to do some Chaka Khan and/or Bruce Springsteen tunes someday."
Kincheloe grew up in a household that had no shortage of musical offerings. The soundtrack to her childhood was varied. From Paul Simon to masterful compositions of Beethoven, a rich tapestry of contemporary and classical tunes surfaced in her family's Catskills abode.
"We listened to 'Graceland' a million times," said Kincheloe. "Bonnie Raitt's 'Nick of Time,' The Band's 'Jericho,' and Emmylou Harris' 'Brand New Dance' were huge at home as well," said Kincheloe, who started playing with her parents' band at age 9. "And, Saturday mornings were all classical."
Also on repeat was Aretha Franklin, a woman whose tone is akin to Kincheloe's. In April of 2018, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds performed Franklin's 1971 "Live at the Fillmore" LP in its entirety at the Brooklyn Bowl — a night filled with sultry renditions of "Dr. Feelgood" and "Respect." Since the icon's passing, the band makes sure to pay homage to the late star with each new gig.
"We now play at least one Aretha song every night and try to mix it up," said Kincheloe. "We try to honor her in our own way whenever we can."
The title track off of Sister Sparrow's "Gold" is anthem-like in its encouragement to a love interest to peel back the layers and put in a little effort in order to discover a love that is gold. The finger-snapping track, starts with heavy brass that leads to Kincheloe's silky vocals that are then joined by piano and other instrumentals. The result feels vintage, yet super current.
"It's different with every song," said Kincheloe, reflecting on the writing process. "Lately, I've been having more melodic thoughts first with the lyrics to follow. Sometimes a phrase will come into your head with a melody already attached, when you're lucky. That's how 'Gold' happened."
While Kincheloe keeps busy with a grueling tour schedule and studio days, she still finds time to revel in the creative work of her peers.
"I'm loving Emily King's new record, Frazey Ford is amazing and I'm super inspired by Brandi Carlile," said Kincheloe.
Kalene McCort: 303-473-1107, email@example.com