Queer country trailblazers Karen & the Sorrows have been featured in Billboard, WNYC’s The Takeaway, and Rolling Stone, who described them as “Dolly Parton fronting Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.” Noisey called the band “exactly what country music needs right now.” No Depression wrote that, “Like Gram Parsons, Pittelman peels away the superficiality that much of country music has embraced and looks deep into its soul, its history, and its stories and makes it all her own.” Karen & the Sorrows’ new EP Why Do We Want What We Want will be released on September 19th, 2023.
For over a decade, Karen & the Sorrows have also been at the heart of a growing queer country community, running the Gay Ole Opry Festival and the Queer Country Quarterly, and creating space for people who love country music even if country music doesn’t always love them back.
Singer-songwriter Karen Pittelman formed the Brooklyn-based Sorrows in 2011 together with guitarist Elana Redfield and drummer Tami Johnson. 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. On their 2017 sophomore record, The Narrow Place, The Sorrows continued building their heartbreak catalog with songs that were both unexpected and entirely country, from a queer reimagining of the bro-country pickup truck ode to a Jewish family story about immigration and race.
After parting ways with bandmates Redfield and Johnson in 2018, Pittelman struck off in new directions for her third album, Guaranteed Broken Heart. The songs still featured her high, lilting vocals, dark country-rock twang, and powerful lyrics. But she also dove more deeply into the ‘90s country she loved, tapping into that era’s studio shimmer and polish.
In addition to electric arrangements featuring pedal steel, Wurlitzer, and brooding guitars, Pittelman called on some of her favorite local bluegrass musicians to add dobro, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle to many of the songs. Her line-up included engineer Charles Burst, who stepped into the additional role of drummer, guitarist Barbara Endes from fellow country-rock band Girls on Grass, Larry Cook on bass, Dolly Trolly’s Gerard Kouwenhoven on harmonies, Rima Fand on fiddle, Ross Martin on guitar, and Cole Quest Rotante on dobro. The result was an album that drew on country’s varied roots to tell a high-lonesome, heartbreak story about grief and desire that No Depression called, “the best straight-ahead country album I’ve heard in quite some time.”
About Guaranteed Broken Heart
“Like Gram Parsons, Pittelman peels away the superficiality that much of country music has embraced and looks deep into its soul, its history, and its stories and makes it all her own….You do not want to miss this album.”—No Depression
“Each year, there’s at least one album that stuns me into silence, then moves me to immediately text everyone I know to tell them about it. Karen Pittelman’s latest release did that for me in October.”—Americana Highways
“Buoyed by Pittelman’s dramatic, expressive voice, Guaranteed Broken Heart is rich with the textures of classic twang and writing that will resonate with anyone who needs a little glue to put the pieces of their own ticker back together. “—AV Club
“Truly beautiful songs that take both lyrical and sonic influence from country music’s most shimmering compositions”—The Boot
“Many songs have solemn fiddle intros from the big Nineties ballads, along with the requisite polish, but there’s still plenty of grit from stinging electric guitar and the messiness of heartbreak. In another way, Pittelman captures peak Nineties country with clever lyricism, as on the shame-on-me saga ‘Third Time’s the Charm.'”—Rolling Stone
“Karen & the Sorrows tug on the heartstrings in emotional Guaranteed Broken Heart.”—Billboard
“Guaranteed Broken Heart combines heartache and stunning musicianship to give us one of the best albums of the year”—Americana Highways
“With the Americana scene exploding with new bands and voices, Karen & the Sorrows’ certainly are aimed for their own Alabama Shakes breakthrough.”—Glide Magazine
“With all the accouterments of country music, the New York outfit breaks our hearts bar-by-bar, line by line in this song.”—PopMatters
About The Narrow Place
“Exactly what country music needs right now”—Noisey
“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
“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”
“If I could liquify this album and mainline it, I absolutely would. Gorgeous lyrics and soulful vocals.”
—Adobe & Teardrops
“Music that touches the heart and soul”
—The Daily Country