Sister Sparrow lands at Strings Music Festival on Saturday in Steamboat |

Sister Sparrow lands at Strings Music Festival on Saturday in Steamboat

Arleigh Kincheloe, her brother, cousin and six more musicians make up Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, a soul band from New York. They play the Strings Music Pavilion at 8 p.m. Saturday, and tickets are $25.
Courtesy Photo

— A nine-piece band packed like sardines into a Dodge Sprinter had to drive all night Wednesday because on a sparsely populated stretch of road between Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Ridgeway, there were no places to stop and sleep.

But Arleigh Kincheloe, the frontwoman of Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, said no one was ill-tempered from the exhaustion of life on the road — it’s onstage where the New York-based powerhouse soul band recharges its batteries.

“The show we had last night in Jackson Hole was so awesome,” she said Thursday with a cheerful edge to her slight rasp. “When you have people that actually enjoy it and want to have a good time to the music, it makes all the difference in the world.”

On Saturday, vocalist Kincheloe and “the boys,” as she affectionately refers to her gaggle of Dirty Birds, will appear in Steamboat Springs as part of Strings Music Festival’s Different Tempo Series.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. and costs $25, a special ticket price honoring Strings’ 25th anniversary this year.

It will be the first trip to Steamboat for the 4-year-old, Brooklyn-based band but its second to Colorado.

Raised in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, the young musician is familiar with the questionable cellphone service in Ridgeway.

She grew up singing in her parents’ band and said it was at about age 9 that she decided it someday would become her livelihood.

“No matter what time of day, there was always music playing in the house,” Kincheloe said about her informal musical education. “From when my dad woke up in the morning until we went to bed, there was something playing on the stereo.”

After a childhood of listening to The Band, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and the Grateful Dead, Kincheloe began exploring the soul greats like Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone.

“I started writing songs at 18 years old as my musical tastes sort of evolved, and I think that’s when I knew I wanted the big band and the big sound,” she said.

In 2008, Kincheloe and her brother Jackson, who plays harmonica in the Dirty Birds, moved to New York, where the band adds a splash of soul and the blast of a horn section to an urban music scene dominated by indie rock bands.

And although Kincheloe said her songs have developed a slightly grittier edge since her move to the city, it’s still a family affair.

The siblings’ cousin Bram Kincheloe plays drums, and Arleigh Kincheloe’s father still likes to play roadie by helping the band set up instruments at gigs.

At 25, Kincheloe said she feels like she ages on the road. But then there are the live shows — wild and unimaginable experiences such as Bonnaroo and New Orleans Jazz Fest this year — that keep the young band forging ahead.

The experience of sitting next to Bon Iver at lunch or meeting the frontwoman for Alabama Shakes help Kincheloe think that making it in the music industry still is a shining possibility for Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.

“I think I felt young last year before we started touring,” she said. “Being on the road, it feels like one week is a whole month in experience. We’re seeing so much every day. It feels like we’re sort of moving at the speed of light.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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