Sandburg Out Loud

“Powerful and mesmerizing… Run, don’t walk, to the place where you can buy this!” — Mary-Eileen McClear, Storyteller

AWARD: A Parents’ Choice Silver Award – Children 6 & Up, 2003.
Carl Sandburg. Sandburg Out Loud: A Selection of Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories, poetry, and folksongs collected in The American Songbag. August House Publishers, audiocassette or CD, 2002.


Three talented storytellers and one talented musician take on the offbeat works of Carl Sandburg in this exuberant recording. Storytellers, Bill Harley, Carol Birch, and Angel Lloyd… interpretations bring to life the almost surreal quality of Sandburg’s imaginative landscape.At times, two or three tellers blend their voices, offering point and counterpoint in a feast of words, as in ‘Arithmetic,’ ‘How They Broke Away to Go to the Rootabaga Country,’ and ‘Doors.’ At other times, one teller takes center stage, creating powerful voices for individual characters… This recording is a treat for the whole family, and allows kids of all ages to enjoy Sandburg’s work as it was meant to be enjoyed: out loud. – Kathy MacMillan School Library Journal, January 2003

Rooted in the idiocyncracies of the 1920s American Mid-west, Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories beg to be told aloud. They are auditory treasures created by on of our country’s great poets. Here you will meet the Potato Face Blink Man, Henry Hagglyhoagly, and the irrepressible Blixie Blimber. Carol Birch, Bill Harley, and Angela Lloyd — all reveling in the sound, sense, and nonsense of Sandburg’s language — bring the sotries gloriously to life in their renditions, both individually and in concert, their voices complementing each other so well in the nulti-voiced pieces. Interspersed between the stories, instrumental music and songs, all chosen from The American Songbag and played spiritedly by Grammy Award Winner David Holt on banjo and guitar, set the stories in relief against the music Sandburg collected and knew so well. This *imaginatively produced CD is your ticket to Rootabaga Country and its metropolis, the City of Liver and Onions.* Come along for the journey when the White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy seek their destiny; enjoy the magic of Blixie Blimber’s Gold Buckskin Wincher; and feel the power, and the sorrow, of the Two Skyscrapers Who Decided to Have a Child. An ideal purchase for schools, libraries, and family road trips — *this one is not to be missed!* – Connie Rockman HEARSAY – Winter, 2003

A new and wonderful musical interpretation highlights the joy and humor of Sandburg’s work… Three storytellers perform absolutely delightful renditions of the stories — the spoken word is indeed glorified with their wonderful diction. – Tamiami Tellers, Bert and Noel MacCarry

Sandburg is not for sipping, nibbling, tastetesting. The only way to experience Sandburg is to take as big a bite as you can and let it roll around in your mouth for a while. Just wallow in those words. Make no mistake. This is not the Sandburg that was required reading for your high school English class. This is Sandburg “as she is spoke.” Do you know what a gold buckskin whincher is? No? Don’t worry, but do be careful if you find one. What happens to the child of two skyscrapers? New thoughts on an old story. Can you play the guitar with mittens on? And what does it mean if you do? A quartet of wonderful performers takes the words and levitates them off the printed page and into the air where the wind blows them around. Join Bill Harley, Angela Lloyd, Carol Birch, and David Holt in the Village of Liver and Onions (as well as points beyond). Let them introduce you to Blixie Bimber, Gimme the Ax. Henry Hagglyhoagly, the potato face blind man and more. In all, there are fifteen stories, poems and songs by Angela, Carol and Bill-and another seven songs from David-a generous twenty-two pieces in all. If you love Sandburg, you’ll love this. If you’ve never before warmed up to the quirkiness-give this a try. You may very well fall in love. This is as good as it gets! – The Story Bag: A Storytelling Newsletter Volume XXVIV, No. 3/4, February/March 2003 Review by Harlynne Geisler.

I first met American teller Carol Birch in the mid 80’s at a conference in Rochester, New York. In our conversation it came out that she loved Sandburg’s Rootabaga stories. She didn’t tell one at the conference and so it was that, until I listened to this CD, the only voice I had ever heard the stories in was my own. As a child I knew a few of the stories from the pages of my “Book Trails” books. But it wasn’t until I became a storyteller that I read the words aloud and fell in love all over again. I told the Gold Buckskin Whincher stories at the Toronto Festival in the 80’s and The Two Skyscrapers Who Wanted to Have a Child took on new meaning for me when my firstborn grew up and began to make his life choices.

Those who have neither read nor heard Sandburg’s stories are in for a treat. He wrote them for his own children who must have been delighted by their nonsense and rare invention. The stories are full of odd humour and wisdom. They are prose, but only just, for the language skips and leaps and burbles off the tongue. I always heard them in my mind’s ear accompanied by jazz, for the language has that quality about it. In this CD the accompanying music is not jazz but, most fittingly, songs and tunes from Sandburg’s American Songbag. The fit is perfect. In fact, the whole CD is darn near perfect. Carol Birch, Angela Lloyd and Bill Harley bring the stories to life, sometimes sharing the stories among them, at other times telling solo. They are all award winning tellers. Any one of them could probably have made this CD on his/her own, but their joint exploration results in a powerful and mesmerizing performance. The music is provided by Grammy-winning musician David Holt.

There are 15 stories or poems, and 7 songs on the CD. One of my favourite stories is How the Potato Face Blind Man Enjoyed Himself On A Fine Spring Morning. “What is it you are playing on the keys of your accordion so fast sometimes, so slow sometimes, so sad some of the moments, so glad some of the moments? ‘It is the song the mama flummywisters sing when they button loose the winter underwear of the baby flummywisters and sing’…” Listen to the story and you will hear true wisdom and generosity as the Potato Face Blind Man explains why he wears a thimble, a tin copper cup, a wooden mug, and a sign that reads “I Am Blind Too.”

Run, don’t walk, to a place where you can buy this CD. Then you, too, can travel to Rootabaga country, visit the village of Liver and Onions, and meet the White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy. – Appleseed Quarterly, The Canadian Journal of Storytelling Review by Mary-Eileen McClear, Winter, 2003