Sister Sparrow in Aspen: Young chick takes flight |

Sister Sparrow in Aspen: Young chick takes flight

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Shervin LainezBrooklyn, N.Y., soul band Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds play Monday at Belly Up Aspen.

ASPEN – Arleigh Kincheloe knew what she wanted to do with her life from the time she was 9. Kincheloe’s parents had a wedding band, Blues Maneuver, and would bring their daughter onstage to sing Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and the Pointer Sisters’ version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire,” guests would turn and pay attention, and young Arleigh couldn’t imagine what might possibly be better.”At 9, it’s hard to think I made that life decision,” said Kincheloe, now 25. “But because of the encouragement and people’s response to what they heard – being a little girl, it gave me a courage and a belief in myself. I thought I might be good at it. It seemed like an easy and clear path. This is what I was put here to do. I never really had any doubt.”That clarity didn’t mean the route was going to be obstacle-free. For Kincheloe, knowing that she wanted a career as a singer put a pressure on her that probably wasn’t shared by most grade schoolers. “It’s also a burden,” she said.But that certainty and preparation seemed to have paid off in 2008, when Kincheloe set out to put together a band. Assembling a group is a knot of finances, personalities and logistics, and it’s a difficult matter for any singer. For a 21-year-old woman, it is a daunting endeavor. Add in that Kincheloe was set on a soul band with a horn section, and the difficulty bar gets raised. But now, four years later, that nine-piece band, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, features eight of the players who assembled for the very first rehearsal.Kincheloe knew two of the players who would join her: her brother Jackson, a harmonica player, and their cousin Bram, a drummer. Those two helped search for the right people, and they did in fact find the right people.”It worked from that first rehearsal, and I said, ‘Can that really be?'” Kincheloe said from Lexington, Ky., where the band was spending a few days writing and rehearsing. “But we all have such a shared vision.”Putting the band together hasn’t been the only easy part of the process. Earlier in the day that she spoke for this story, Kincheloe had written a few songs on her iPhone; later that day, the songs were already beginning to take shape.Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., got their start with a residency at the Rockwood Music Hall on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After five months of once-a-week gigs, the band was tight enough and had enough of a buzz to start touring. Last year, in its first year of real road work, it played 150 shows, including opening sets for the Black Keys and the Neville Brothers. This year, the band released its second album, “Pound of Dirt,” played even more dates than in 2011 and appeared at the Bonnaroo Festival and at Carbondale Mountain Fair. It returns to the valley Monday for a show at Belly Up.The band’s sound – soul with touches of gospel, blues and Joplinesque rock – was influenced by the music Kincheloe’s parents played in their home in New York’s Catskill Mountains. “Soul – it spoke to me. And it seemed like my voice would be compatible with that style,” she said.But the sound got a tighter focus after Kincheloe began visiting the New Orleans Jazz Fest, which she has attended every year since 2007. “The first time I went to New Orleans, it was like being reborn. I was amazed by what I heard down there,” she said. “Seeing Bonnie Raitt was life-changing. She’s a goddess in my mind, this untouchable thing. And there she is, right in front of me.”The Jazzfest experience also had a specific effect on Kincheloe’s music. “It was right before I put the band together,” she said of her first visit. “I had a lot of songs written for the project. But then I knew I had to have the three-piece horn section, the funk. That was a pivotal moment for me. The brass bands on the corner. Just the tuba in general. Whenever I heard that, anywhere, I’d gravitate toward it, put my ear up to it.”But for having the confidence to keep her musical goals, Kincheloe goes back to her parents. Her father had had experience as a touring musician and shared with Kincheloe his visions of greatness. Her father didn’t achieve stardom, but he did make it seem attainable.”So we thought it was totally possible,” Kincheloe said. “We had premonitions of taking it to a serious level. It never occurred to me to be bigger than my parents because they were the end-all, be-all. But after I moved to New York and got a few shows, we started to think, ‘OK, this may go somewhere.’ I’ve forever had the idea that I could go all the way. Come hell or high water, I’d get there because I didn’t know what else l’d do with my life.”

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