Creating a smart musical adaptation of Carl Sandburg’s coiling free verse may seem a Sisyphean task, but David Nagler has managed to do just that on the 16-track Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems.
Though Sandburg’s writing resists formal rhythm, his words dance when paired with refrains written by Nagler and vocals from a slew of local stars such as Jeff Tweedy, Kelly Hogan, and Robbie Fulks. On “Theme in Yellow,” for example, the Wilco frontman brightens Sandburg’s autumnal meditation by setting it to a contemporary twang. Nagler, too, takes unexpected risks, like jumping from long, lush lines to sharp, staccato spoken word in his version of “Chicago.” The album as a whole is a playful, reverential toast to a literary light.
GO:David Nagler & Friends will perform Chicago Poems on October 27 at 6 p.m. at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. Free. poetryfoundation.org/programs/events