• Matt Fogelson

sister sparrow and the dirty birds


Apologies for interrupting your Mother’s Day festivities, but today’s the day I pull back the curtain on Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, a band from Brooklyn that’s been around since 2010 but that, sadly, I didn’t come across until 2019. “Hang on a second, “ I hear you saying, “2019 was a lifetime ago, pre-COVID, for crying out loud. Why’d you hide the ball for so long? And then decide to bust in on Mother’s Day to finally drop the news?” These are fair questions. I guess I’ve been waiting for just the right time to introduce everyone to Sister Sparrow’s bluesy, soulful stylings.


And today is definitely the right time. I can’t think of a better way to kick off Mother’s Day than by listening to lead singer and songwriter, Arleigh Kincheloe, belt out “Mama Knows,” a tribute to her mom, from Sister Sparrow’s 2015 release, The Weather Below. Kincheloe’s voice, a blissful mélange of Susan Tedeschi’s gritty blues and Aretha Franklin’s sparkling soul, cuts through the surface on its way to some inner sanctum of existential presence. Tell me I’m wrong.


Pretty sweet, huh? Speaking of sweet, another standout track from The Weather Below is “Sugar.” If “Mama Knows” didn’t get you up and dancing, this funky nugget will. Listen for the electrifying bolt of energy Kincheloe delivers at about the 1:38 mark as she segues into the second chorus. Wow. And the outro jam ain’t bad either. I’m trying to cut back on sugar these days, but not this kind.


Sister Sparrow’s most recent release is 2018’s Gold. This record is a little more polished than the band’s earlier efforts, the Dirty Birds having cleaned themselves up a bit. But I really dig the title track. Be sure to stick around until the end when Kincheloe really shows off her pipes. It’s goosebump stuff.


For those more partial to the blues end of the rock spectrum, who can make out kernels of some filthy blues lurking in Sister Sparrow’s tunes and would give all for them to lean into that rich musical heritage, I hear you and give you “My House,” off Sister’s Sparrow’s eponymous first record, released in 2010. The band’s first album is more deeply steeped in the blues than the others, so if that’s how you roll, be sure to check it out. This is a live version from their 2016 release, Fowl Play.


I hope my interruption of Mother’s Day for a brief dive into Sister Sparrow’s oeuvre did more good than harm. I also hope everyone (especially those who identify as mothers) has a great day. And if you need more tunes to get you through Mother’s Day, check out my “Tell Mama” playlist of all female artists from back in the day—actually it’s only from 2015, but I think that qualifies as “back in the day” given the events of the last year. And of course I’ve now updated it to include “Mama Knows.”


Enjoy!