Brooklyn-based country band Karen & the Sorrows are exactly what country music needs right now. Karen Pittelman, Elana Redfield, and Tami Johnson formed in 2011 and since have become a pillar in the local queer country music scene, continuing the work bands like Lavender Country began in the 70s. Their songs use traditional country tropes—love, loss, heartbreak, shame—but sung from the queer perspective. On paper, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal; a lot of the music we love these days is made by queer people. In country music, though, bigoted values and an outright phobic industry means that even one slight deviation from the norm can lead to one helluva world of pain.
That’s why bands like Karen & the Sorrows, or My Gay Banjo, Yva Las Vegass, DK & the Joy Machine and so many more that make up this community are so special. They sing about the ups and downs (and because this is country music after all, mostly just the downs) of life and love in just the same way you or I would, but when they come together, like they did at Another Country Festival, the result is so fucking radical it’s hard to wipe the smile off your face for even a moment. I caught them at that performance and in case you couldn’t tell, I’m still high off the feeling of watching tons of queer country artists play music in resistance to a holiday that felt extra fucked up this year.