Rosalie Sorrels: Way Out In Idaho

[Image: Rosalie singing at Newport Folk Festival in 1966]

Rosalie singing at Newport Folk Festival in 1966

Actress, troubadour, songwriter, connector - Idaho native Rosalie Sorrels describes herself as all of these in Idaho Public Television's new performance documentary. Her recordings are often found in the folk music category but she refuses to be categorized.

"I've been trying to climb out of the box all my life. I'm sure I'm nearly out," Sorrels says. "You could see me a lot of times and still not know exactly what I do, because I'm going to do something different if I get a chance," she says in describing her performances.

Fellow musicians say she is unique. Producer Marcia Franklin interviewed Pete Seeger, Nanci Griffith, Jean Ritchie, Bruce "Utah" Phillips, Terry Garthwaite, Barbara Higbie, Roma Baran and others for the documentary.

"It was fascinating to see how they all independently wanted to stress the same point - that Rosalie's storytelling is as much about who she is as her singing," Franklin says. "And they all talked about how Rosalie doesn't fit into any commercial 'box.' She's her own person, with her own inimitable style."

The program showcases Sorrels in concert with friends - musicians from Idaho and across the nation - in Hailey in September 2005. The Divas of Boise add their voices to the songs; Rosalie adds depth with her stories.

[Image: Rosalie singing in a recent concert]

Rosalie singing in a recent concert

"Sometimes I sing places where they don't want me to tell stories and I almost can't do that. I can sing a bunch of songs but they don't make any sense to me if you don't have the stories," Sorrels says.

The portrait drawn by concert footage, interviews, including with Sorrels herself, and vintage photographs of Sorrels and her family is vibrant and uniquely Idaho.

"She is incredibly generous with other musicians," executive producer Bruce Reichert says. "She'll never do a song without mentioning the songwriter's name. It's important to her to give credit where credit is due."

He adds that Sorrels also epitomizes something that reflects her Idaho pioneer heritage - perseverance. "Her life has not been easy, but she perseveres. And she's gutsy. As a friend commented to me, she plays those low notes. She goes where others fear to tread."

-- By Anne Peterson