This past Friday, October 12th, Arleigh Kincheloe, better known as Sister Sparrow, bandleader of blues rockers Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, released her first-full-length since 2016’s The Weather Below. The album, Gold, is Kincheloe’s first release as a mother and her first solo album. The Dirty Birds are still around, accompanying her as her touring band, but Gold is the product of her work with producer and co-writer Carter Matschullat. While Sister Sparrow is best known for her booming voice and sonic tendencies toward funk and soul of previous eras, Gold finds her feeling more free to explore certain contemporary brands of pop… even if just momentarily.
Since being back to the whole touring thing, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds have already hit up The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, when they returned to World Café Live this April, but they’re back out on the road and will be headlining Theatre of Living Arts on Friday, November 9th. Yesterday I got a chance to chat with Arleigh for the first time since we first met, in September of 2012, and she tells me that Philadelphia has already played a significant role in this chapter of her career: “It’s been fun in general just to get back out there after having the baby. The last time we were at World Café Live was so great. I mean, we love that venue and it was just a good milestone for coming back, and now we’re getting to play the TLA…” In addition, she tells me that Sister Sparrow’s immediate future consists primarily of additional touring: “We’re on the road a lot this fall and trying to hit all of our favorite markets. I mean, we’ll take a little break at the end of the year, but we’re really just trying to get back into it, and we’re going on an even longer, bigger tour in the Spring.”
Arleigh Kincheloe tells me that, as you would expect, the process of doing a solo album was quite different from being in the studio and recording another album with your steady band: “We had always sort of gone in and done a live feel and we’d record everything together. It was very band-oriented, but, for this one, I wanted to get in with a producer and really explore. There’s definitely a more poppy sound on this one, but also even a little bit of hip-hop influence.” And although Sister Sparrow explores some new sounds as of recently, when I ask her what she was listening to while working on Gold, she tells me that that rarely changes: “I’m always kind of listening to old soul stuff,” before citing Gladys Knight, The Pointer Sisters, and Mavis Staples as artists that are constantly in regular rotation for her.
I ask Arleigh what can be expected of her upcoming show at the TLA and she tells me that, while you can expect a healthy dose of her latest sounds, you should also expect to hear a fair amount of previous releases: “We are definitely gonna be playing a lot of songs from the new album, but also a lot of songs off of all the records. I mean, from the perspective of being a fan of music, I wanna hear songs from all the records I love. We also have a brand-new member that plays piano and organ and my brother has been taking up the lap steel, which has been a lot of fun.”