Queer country trailblazers Karen & the Sorrows are back with a new full-length album, The Narrow Place (out 8/25). 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 the year. 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.
The Sorrows are also at the center of a growing queer country scene, creating a community for people who love country music even if country music doesn’t always love them back. For the last six years, they’ve run Brooklyn’s Gay Ole Opry Festival and the Queer Country Quarterly. “Now more than ever, we are grateful to be in community with so many amazing musicians,” Pittelman says. “Country music can tell compelling stories about family, love, heartbreak, and strength. Those stories should include all of our families, all of our love, and especially all of our heartbreak and our strength.”
Glide is proud to premiere “Every We Had” (below) from The Narrow Place, an achingly tender composition that reveals a mature melodic precision rarely heard from country western artists. Karen and The Sorrows live up to their namesake as a living conduit of the barroom tales of yesterday, reminding us of names from Patsy, Dolly, and on down the line….
“Everything We Had” is the last song on the album, and I wanted it to have that lonesome feel of a band playing at a dive bar at 2:00 am, after everyone else has gone home, and the bartender is mopping up. There are a billion breakup songs out there but not nearly as many about both people trying as hard as they could and still failing. That was what I wanted to sing about, “says Pittelman.
“The second verse references the song “River Deep – Mountain High” because, even though it’s technically a love song, the way Tina Turner sings it always breaks my heart. I think it’s that earnest faith of loving someone with everything you’ve got—”I love you just the way I loved that rag doll” (and not just any rag doll, but the only doll Tina ever had!)—that feels so sad to me. It’s like she’s asking: if I give you everything, will that be enough?”
“And I guess when I wrote this song I was thinking about how sometimes the answer is no, ” continues Pittelman. “It was originally much more electric guitar focused, but when we had the amazing J.B. Flatt playing the Wurlitzer in the studio, it was clear that the organ needed to be more center stage. And I really love the tone on Elana’s guitar solo. It’s like she translated exactly how I felt when I wrote this song into a sound.”