First up, we've got Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, chosen mostly because I think their name is kind of funny, but also because their show happens to be listed on page 41 of the magazine, which is really easy to open to because it's the center-spread. Click through to see what they're all about.
First, I'll listen to "Freight Train," which has the most plays of the four songs posted. Pretty nice guitar tone, lots of reverb. I would guess it's a strat. Once the singing kicks in, the soul thing becomes prevalent. There are horns, which work wonderfully, a harmonica, which shouldn't, but does. There's a brief guitar solo, which isn't working for me at all—awkward phrasing, and whatever effect is on there is way too much. The lyrics, about some sort of mystery man who knocks our narrator off her feet, are perfectly inoffensive. There's a nice harmonica solo and then a pleasantly rowdy outro. Definitely leaning toward old-people rock, but then again, so am I. Not bad at all.
One more? Yes, let's go with "Boom Boom," which I will assume is the newest because it has the least amount of plays. Hmm, weird. Super trebly, reverb-heavy guitar part that has me worried this is going to be a ska song. A bright, wandering bassline sits below it, and I'm feeling it for about ten seconds, until the singing comes in and distracts me. It's a nice melody, but the whole thing feels a little cheesy. Oh, then it gets much cheesier, with this whole "I made your heart go boom boom boom" thing, which I guess I'm actually enjoying? Strange. More harmonica, and I think some horns have joined the guitars on the up-beats. Two minutes in, and she's back to the "boom boom boom" thing. I notice we've still got three minutes to go. This song is definitely too long. There's a nice bridge at 2:40, with some much-appreciated dissonance, followed by an uninspiring instrumental passage and a few too many refrains. Not bad, not great.
So, there you have it. Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds: definitely not the next big blog-rock phenomenon, but nice enough for people who just love sorta old-fashioned rock and roll. I never understand what the ideal career arc is for bands like this, who seem to have such easily digested reference points, but for whom there's quite obviously no place in the mainstream. Is this the new bar rock?
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds play Rockwood Music Hall at midnight on Friday, October 23rd.