Queer country trailblazers Karen & the Sorrows are back with a new album, The Narrow Place. Like any roots band, The Sorrows sing about heartbreak and loss. They just take the back roads less traveled to get there. From a queer reimagining of the bro-country pickup truck ode to a Jewish family story about immigration and race, these songs are both unexpected and entirely country.
The Sorrows’ sound centers around singer-songwriter Karen Pittelman’s high, lilting vocals and Elana Redfield’s lonesome pedal steel guitar mixed with the dark twang and steady beat of the 1970s country-rock the band grew up on. Pittelman, Redfield, and drummer Tami Johnson formed the Brooklyn-based band in 2011. In 2012, they released the EP Ocean Born Mary about a ghost story from Redfield’s New Hampshire hometown. In 2014, they put out their first full-length record, The Names of Things, which was voted one of the Freeform American Roots Chart’s best debut albums of 2014. A constant fixture in New York’s clubs and bars, the Sorrows have continued to build a strong local following as well as touring throughout the east coast from New England to New Orleans.
For the last six years, The Sorrows have also been at the heart of a growing queer country scene. They run Brooklyn’s Gay Ole Opry Festival, the Queer Country Quarterly, and this year’s Another Country Festival, creating a community for people who love country music even if country music doesn’t always love them back.
“Seventies-era folk rock, accented by generous amounts of pedal steel and a steady social conscience. For fans of the idea of Dolly Parton fronting Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.”
—10 New Country Artists You Need to Know, Rolling Stone Country
“Exactly what country music needs right now”
“Pedal steel-driven, rootsy songs that recall Harvest-era Neil Young to explore a variety of unorthodox subjects”
“A trim record, with the right amount of sputter and splat in Johnson’s drums…gluey, unnervingly effective globs of Redfield’s pedal steel, occasional jolts from a fiddle and handsome female-male harmonies…’Can’t Miss What You Never Had,’ an early highlight, upshifts into a soft, jabbing hook that could have come out in the second half of the 1990s on a Vince Gill record.”
“Lonesome, twangy, and infectious”
“A twangy tale of lost love, paying homage to classic country with gentle pedal steel and lush vocal harmonies”
“Haunting pedal steel work and unvarnished heartbreak”
“Some of the best alt-country being made”
“A band with real substance”
—3rd Coast Music
“If I could liquify this album and mainline it, I absolutely would. Gorgeous lyrics and soulful vocals.”
—Adobe & Teardrops