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.
But back to the video. According to Karen, the idea was all Tami’s, the drummer for the band and a fairly accurate human version of Animal from The Muppets. It features the trio playing solemnly in a plant nursery surrounded by, you guessed it, dirt.
“‘Back Down to the Dirt’ takes place in that moment when you realize everything you ever tried to build has fallen apart and you’re left standing alone in the wreckage,” says Pittelman. “Which is about as bad as things can get, of course. But, at least in my experience, there’s this other feeling that can sneak in with the grief–I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s almost a euphoria. It’s the feeling of knowing that there’s nothing left to give a fuck about. And that’s what this song is about. That plus the way that the thump of Waylon Jennings’ drums makes me feel. I read someone describe their drummer, Richie Albright, as playing the kick-drum from hell, and that sounds about right.”
Shout out to the euphoria of having your heart broken and the freeing feeling of giving no fucks. Check out the video above, and watch out for their album, The Narrow Place out August 25.
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