Jeff Tweedy has turned American poet Carl Sandburg’s “Theme in Yellow” into an airy, idyllic folk song that will appear on Brooklyn musician David Nagler’s upcoming tribute album, Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems.
The original poem describes a midwestern Halloween and is filled with images of “prairie cornfields / Orange and tawny gold clusters” and children “singing ghost songs / And love to the harvest moon” while gathered around a pumpkin (or someone pretending to be a pumpkin), who serves as the poem’s narrator.
Tweedy captures Sandburg’s playfulness with a delicate, lighthearted vocal melody, while Nagler crafts an instrumental arrangement that blossoms from a simple mix of acoustic guitar, bass and drums into a rich Americana soundscape filled with piano and sweeping strings.
The Wilco frontman’s “Theme in Yellow” is the first offering from Chicago Poems, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sandburg’s collection of the same name. The album will comprise musical renditions of 16 poems and, along with Tweedy, feature contributions from Chicago-associated artists like the Mekons’ Sally Timms and Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan, Robbie Fulks and Daniel Knox.
Chicago Poems will arrive October 14th and a release show is scheduled for October 16th at Joe’s Pub in New York City. Performances are also scheduled for the Friends of Carl Sandburg at the Flat Rock Playhouse in Flat Rock, North Carolina on September 24th, and at the Chicago Public Library on October 27th for Poetry Day.