Brooklyn alt-country band Karen & the Sorrows will release their debut EP Ocean-Born Mary on June 28th. To celebrate, they’ll be playing at Rock Shop with special guests The Library and Clare Burson as part of the club’s monthly Americana Pie series.
Ocean-Born Mary centers around a misremembered ghost story from band member Elana Redfield’s childhood in New Hampshire. Mary saved the lives of her shipmates the day she was born by inspiring a pirate captain to pity—instead of his original plan to slaughter everyone aboard. Eighteen years later that pirate came to Henniker, New Hampshire to claim Mary as his wife. But he got a bit more than he bargained for when she refused to let him return to sea, and instead sealed him into the walls of the home they both haunt today.
“I’d been writing a lot of songs about letting go,” explains the band’s singer-songwriter Karen Pittelman. “When Elana told me that story, I knew it was time to visit the other side and write an ode to obsessive possession instead.” The band has been performing the EP’s four interconnected songs as one piece since they debuted it in December at Dixon Place. With the help of engineer Charles Burst at Seaside Lounge, they decided to build the entire EP from one long, live take to capture that energy and flow.
Pittelman and Redfield formed the Sorrows in late 2010 and began honing an alt-country sound that combines Pittelman’s high, lilting vocals and intricate melodies with Redfield’s haunting, lonesome guitar work. Together with drummer Tami Johnson and bassist AJ Lewis, the Sorrows know that the best songs are the sad ones. They don’t shy away from a little meanness either, and the band moves easily from elegy to country stomp. “Her songs are soaring tributes to lost love, and her gentle and charming ballads are, well, country,” writes Neville Elder on No Depression.
The Sorrows are also hard at work helping to create Brooklyn’s burgeoning queer country scene. Together with the label Riot Grrrl Ink, they co-produce the Gay Ole Opry, an annual queer country music festival which has featured bands like Mount Moriah and Nervous But Excited. And they host the Queer Country Monthly, consistently packing Prospect Heights’ Branded Saloon with earnest country fans. “When I started playing country, I had to think about what it means to love a culture that doesn’t always love you back,” says Pittelman. “I wondered if there were other people out there who grew up on this sound, but didn’t always feel comfortable in the spaces it was played. I was so happy to discover that I wasn’t the only one!”
EP Release Party on June 28th, 8:00 pm, Rock Shop, 249 4th Avenue, Brooklyn
Door: $10, Advance tickets at www.therockshopny.com/calendar
EP available for streaming and downloads at www.karenandthesorrows.com