Because he makes his work look easy, you’re tempted to underestimate storyteller Jay O’Callahan. Listen to, say, ”Herman and Marguerite,” which makes up half Earth Stories, a 50-minute album of five animal stories. O’Callahan’s story sounds like a good radio play, with diverse characters and scenes of great humor and tenderness. But this is no play; this is one man, making his voice do amazing things. O’Callahan’s work is a technical tour de force.
”Herman and Marguerite” is miraculous in another way. This story is practically an epic, and it’s about worms. Herman is an earthworm, Marguerite a caterpillar (”Dogerpillar?” Herman asks, puzzled by this new species, when they meet). Over the course of the story, Marguerite not only turns into a butterfly but also has her life saved by an international chorus of worms. ”Herman and Marguerite” is not Tristan and Isolde — the relationship here is platonic, for one thing — but it’s a delight.
Earth’s four other offerings include a Kiplingesque folk story, ”Hyena,” and a couple of tender-young-boy-who-loves-animals tales. ”Frogs, Dodge City” is a hilarious Western spoof whose climax involves a bunch of frogs singing and dancing on tabletops in a saloon where ”the sasparilly’s flowin’.” It’s sort of a froggy Cheers. A