Premiere: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, 'Millie Mae'
They may be from Brooklyn, but the fiery brass- and gospel-infused funk emanating from Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds is rooted in Memphis soul. Their rhythmic wheelhouse combines big-city grit and down-home sweetness with a little bit of Americana twang. Recently, the group snared opening slots with blues and soul revivalists such as the Black Keys and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
In anticipation of its sophomore full-length, “Pound of Dirt” (out Feb. 28 on Modern Vintage Recordings), the band premieres its song “Millie Mae.” Though the group is based on the East Coast, the new track was actually written by lead singer Sister Sparrow (a.k.a. Arleigh Kincheloe) while staying at a friend’s house in Malibu. (See? There is a local connection after all!)
A native of New York’s Catskill Mountains (along with her brother Jackson, the harmonica player and bandleader for the Dirty Birds), Kincheloe still allowed a bit of her woodsy folk influences to seep into the track. “Looking back, it’s sort of a nod to the roots I have coming from my mom’s taste in music,” Kincheloe said. “She loves singing Emmylou Harris and Patsy Cline sort of stuff.”
Apparently the mix of sunshine and a budding romance in Kincheloe’s life contributed to the band taking a lighthearted detour from its standard hard-charging funk sound.
“I was a bit smitten at the time I wrote it,” Kincheloe said.
Opening with a skittering funk drum beat, Kincheloe’s vocals glide over summertime grooves as the song slowly picks up steam, adding subtle choir harmonies and a burst of brass-filled breakdowns that add a sharp retro feel, recalling that of locals Fitz & the Tantrums. But by practicing a bit of restraint vocally and musically on "Millie Mae," Kincheloe and company manages to carve out a catchy pop tune with a bit of Southern flavor.
“It’s one of the more playful songs on the album. It sort of stands out on its own as a softer side to the Dirty Birds.”
Check out the track below.
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, 'Millie Mae'
— Nate Jackson
Photo: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. Credit: Shorefire Media