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photo of Rosalie Sorrels Rosalie Sorrels, of Grimes Creek, Idaho, is a storyteller, songwriter and singer, author of Way Out in Idaho, a collection of Idaho folk songs, and the artist recorded on several musical albums and tapes. Some people think of her as a folk singer, but...

I don't think I write folk songs, [although] I did write one song called "I'm Gonna Tell on You," which is a folk song. It is a children's song. People know it all over the country. They don't know that I wrote it, which is the first test of a folk song. If you know who wrote it and associate it with that person, it usually isn't a folk song. People write verses to that song all the time. Many people have adopted it. I made it up out of things my children said to one another. Mostly, "I'm gonna tell on you."

People don't sing most of my songs. A lot of people ask me to sing "Travelin' Lady." A lot of women like that song and identify with it. They identify with it on their own terms and have no idea why I wrote it. If they did know what I meant by it, they wouldn't like it. They put their own story into it...

I sang it one time to a group of feminists up in Portland. They were all pretty young. Most of them were at that place of life where they couldn't wait to get out of their houses. They assumed that was why I wrote about my "big fine house I used to live in that I don't answer the bell to anymore." But I loved that house, giving it up was really hard for me. When I told them that, they were angry.

Then they asked me what it was like to ride in a freight train. I said I had never been in a freight train in my life. Then they were really angry. They said, "Your album has a picture of you on a train." I said, "Yeah, but if you look at it closely, you'll see it's a big silver flyer, not a freight train." You don't hop a freight train with five children! None of them had five children. They couldn't relate to the role they had cast me in without knowing who I was. They felt like I had led them astray by writing this song and putting a picture of myself on a train on this album.

A lot of the songs that I have written are very particular to me. They're very personal and nobody else would ever sing them. [I relate to] the people at my performance by the story I tell which goes with the song. I always choose a story that I think that everyone will have experienced in some way or another. That's why people think of me as a folk singer.

Travelin' Lady
by Rosalie Sorrels

I used to live in a big fine house With many rooms and a wide open door, And all of my friends came to visit me there, But I don't answer that bell anymore.

I used to live in a big fine house I had rooms for twenty friends or more, Now I run begging from lover to friend For a pallet on any old floor.

Chorus: Oh I've gotten to be quite a rambler Going by land and by sea, And once it was aprons and dishpans and such, But now I'm a travelin' lady.

Once it was me that gave all the parties, I baked the bread, I spread the feast, I poured the wine. Now I receive all my friends in a bar, And none of the glasses are mine.

But the bars hold notions of freedom, And drinking with friends or all alone, I find being one with the wind and the rain Fogs over the windows of home.


There's no more rooms to retire to, I've got to move, there's no place to stay. I've nothing that's mine but my shadow, If you need one, I'll give that away.


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