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.” For the last eight years, they 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.
With the Sorrows’ third album, Guaranteed Broken Heart, which will be released on October 18th, singer-songwriter Karen Pittelman has struck off in new directions. While many of the songs still center around the dark, country-rock twang that Pittelman loves, she also dove more deeply into both ‘90s country and string-band inspired sounds.
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 began work on Guaranteed Broken Heart. She called on friends and frequent collaborators to form her core electric band, including engineer Charles Burst, who stepped into the additional role of drummer for this album, guitarist Barbara Endes from fellow country-rock band Girls on Grass, Larry Cook on bass, and Gerard Kouwenhoven on harmonies. She also reached out to members of Brooklyn’s strong bluegrass and old time scene to put together an all-star line-up, including Rima Fand on fiddle, Ross Martin on guitar, and Cole Quest Rotante on dobro.
The Sorrows will be celebrating the release of Guaranteed Broken Heart on October 18th at Brooklyn’s Littlefield, and then hitting the road for a southeastern tour in November.
“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