Concert Review: Karen Jonas @ Pearl Street Warehouse (3/31/2019)

Karen Jonas with Tim Bray
Karen Jonas with Tim Bray (Photo Credit: Jim Williams Photography)

Karen Jonas, with her guitar and winning voice, along with her 4-piece band gave the Pearl Street Warehouse crowd a fun night of ‘learning to like country music’, as she opened for Nashville singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt. Tim Bray also joins Karen for her sets, emoting and jamming and generally appearing to have a splendid time playing the guitar.

Karen is from Fredericksburg, Virginia and as a local musician was also up for two Wammie Music Awards (Fun fact: the ceremony happened right as she performed!), where she won the 2019 Wammie for Best Country/Americana Artist. The Wammies, re-started after a few years off, is aimed at recognizing DC area artists and musicians for their artistic works. See a list of all the 2019 winners.

Karen and co. kicked off the evening with “Yellow Brick Road”, from her third album titled Butter. The song is about appreciating what you’ve earned through hard work and determination, and not simply following the shiny road that would take you away.

They played a sampling of all three of her albums, nine songs in total, including two from Butter (the album was also nominated for the Best Country/Americana Album Wammie, but lost to Eli Lev/Way Out West by Eli Lev and the Fortunes Found).

Next came “Oklahoma Lottery”, from her first album of the same name, and tells the story of ‘divorce and the dust bowl’, wrapped in a jazzy melody.

In between songs, Karen told a few stories, like when she started as a musician she was not prepared for the label of country music. She didn’t even really listen to country as an influence or for pleasure at the time, she simply wanted to release a record in order to book gigs. Once the classification stuck, however, she turned more intently to the genre and wrote songs about it, like “Country Songs”, which is a twangy ode to country themes of heartbreak and honky-tonks and Dwight Yoakam in tight jeans. The song serves as a way to give in to the desire ‘to learn to like country music’. Now that she’s embraced it, it’s especially fitting (or ironic?) that her win at the Wammies was as a country artist. Kudos for not trying to do something, and then turning around and doing it superbly.

Next came the sad yet winsome “Wasting Time”, which she assured us was her ‘one allowed heart breaker of the set’ and her favorite kind of song. I have to agree, this was my favorite song on the evening, especially the chill-inducing chorus, “I’m holding out for love.”

Near the end came the single “Butter”, about cooking for her four children that eat a lot, with love of course.

They ended with a rocking cover of Bob Dylan’s “Early Mornin’ Rain” before handing off the reins to Lilly Hiatt to work more magic on the good-sized Pearl Street Warehouse crowd.

Butter is ready (and Karen’s other two albums) for you to pick up and have a good listen. Find out all the superb reasons it was nominated.

Yellow Brick Road
Oklahoma Lottery
Country Songs
Wasting Time
Early Mornin’ Rain (Bob Dylan cover)

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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