Karen Pittelman makes a difference, with her band Karen & the Sorrows and through attempts to fight white supremacy in independent music and encourage inclusion within scenes through her Gay Ole Opry events.
Beyond seeking unity and acceptance at home in Brooklyn, New York and beyond, Pittelman writes the sorts of honest songs that connect with all fans' experiences on some level.
"I always think about Brad Paisley's 'This is Country Music,'" she says. "To me, that song really expresses what I believe about country music, even though all of his examples don't include the examples I would include. He's like, we're going to sing about cancer, we're going to sing about mothers and we're going to sing about losing a loved one in the military. Rock music is about being cool, and country music is about telling your truth in that way. I just add to that list."
Pittelman honors her favorite classic country artists, from the universally loved Dolly Parton to queer country scene pioneers Lavender Country, with the twangy, vulnerable songs on new album Guaranteed Broken Heart, out today (Oct. 18). For example, the string band-inspired "Your New Life Now" should speak to anyone standing at a crossroads, while the tight harmonies and lonesome pedal steel accompaniment heard on "Third Time's the Charm" sweeten universal feelings of heartache and sorrow.
"I think country music is about telling the truth about how you suffer, how you love, what you're longing for and how you find the resilience and connection, even if your connection is through suffering," she says. "I listen to a Hank Williams song or a George Jones song and I feel connected to them, although my life could not be more different. I know that feeling of heartache in my body when I feel that sound in their voice."
Americana and country music need what Pittelman and her band desires, which is a society where "music is for everyone" is a reality and not a bumper sticker waiting to happen, with songs that connect to the past through honesty and integrity.
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