Posted June 18, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Karen Jonas Presents Her Vision of a Songwriter on New Album

Karen Jonas
Karen Jonas

Alt-country singer-songwriter Karen Jonas will release her fifth album, The Southwest Sky and Other Dreams, on Aug. 28. The record is a “flashback-fueled fever dream of Americana songcraft and storytelling” as Jonas “embroiders small-town snapshots into vivid explorations of our inner struggle between ambition and inaction.” 

The Virginia singer-songwriter’s most album captures that “aching space between romantic dream state and numb reality like few before.” 

“It’s amazing that our brains are capable of sustaining this whole existence of imagination … of these dreams and goals and ambitions,” says Jonas in a press release. “But sometimes that’s enough. Because sometimes the action isn’t really critical to get you through the day. I capture these faint ghosts of stories – some my own; some not. Oil derricks peck on forever, little mosquitoes sucking the blood of the Earth … Watching with detachment the infiniteness of the land and the stories that seem to add up to nothing.”

Jonas has toured non-stop since issuing her 2014 debut album Oklahoma Lottery. She’s toured with the likes of Dale Watson, Alabama, Joe Ely, Bob Schneider, Robert Earl Keen and Amanda Shires.

Whereas her previous albums were mostly recorded live, Jonas cut this album in her home studio with producer EP Jackson.

“It made a huge difference for us to be able to expand ideas together without watching the clock and, in a practical sense, to sit with the tracks and dig into them for a really long time,” she explains. 

The Southwest Sky and Other Dreams will represent her first recording with a “settled” band, comprising longtime guitarist and musical partner Tim Bray alongside “the Seths” (bassist Seth Morrissey and drummer Seth Brown).

“I found that our arrangements were able to express a lot about each character’s mood … A little ‘spaghetti,’ but not too much,” she says. “I don’t pass a lot of judgment on my characters, and there are questions left about them all. I think that, sonically, we’re able to answer some of those questions. I’ve learned to take a lot more time and to be expansive with the songs, as I’m thinking of them. And as we take them into the studio, to look for ways that they could grow. I like to pick characters and become obsessed with them: live with them and love with them until I can describe a minute of their life and it can tell you so much about them. That’s a big part of my vision as a songwriter.”


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.