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 their most recent album, The Narrow Place, “exactly what country music needs right now.” They are also at the heart of Brooklyn’s queer country scene, running the Gay Ole Opry Festival and the Queer Country Quarterly, and creating community for people who love country music even if country music doesn’t always love them back.
The Sorrows’ sound centers around singer-songwriter Karen Pittelman’s high, lilting vocals matched with lonesome pedal steel guitar and the dark twang and steady beat of the 1970s country-rock the band grew up on. Pittelman, guitarist Elana 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. On their 2017 sophomore release, The Narrow Place, The Sorrows continued building their country catalog of heartbreak and loss—they just took 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, the album’s songs are both unexpected and entirely country. After parting ways with long-time collaborators Redfield and Johnson in 2018, Pittelman is currently at work on songs for the band’s third album.
“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”
“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