The connection music listeners feel to the folks writing and singing one's favorites is a difficult thing to explain. It's not uncommon to feel sad when a musician I've listened to for many years dies, which, thinking logically, seems a bit weird. After all, it's not like I knew these folks. But it's essentially the same mystery as trying to explain why you even like a piece of music in the first place; logic ain't got nothing to do with it.
That's why, after the recent passing of Phil Everly, hearing the Everly Brothers is gonna give me a twinge for a while. This week, the death of former Texas Poet Laureate Steven Fromholz in a hunting accident has given me similar pause.
Unless one is from Texas or pretty heavily into country or Americana, Fromholz's name is likely unfamiliar to most music listeners. His closest brush with fame was in 1976, when Willie Nelson took his song "I'd Have to Be Crazy" into the Billboard Country Top 20, with harmony vocals provided by Fromholz. More recently, some of his songs were recorded by Lyle Lovett for the excellent tribute album to Texas songwriters, Step Inside This House.
It was one of the songs recorded by Lovett that served as my introduction to Fromholz, many years ago when a friend played it for me. Well, a trio of songs, really; "Texas Trilogy" is a-mini suite originally recorded by Fromholz and partner Dan McCrimmon for Here to There, the duo's debut album as Frummox. Any listener who has lived in a declining rural community will relate in some way to these songs, despite their definite Texan focus. And those who grew up on a farm or ranch itself may be utterly transfixed by the final song of the trio, "Bosque County Romance," a clear-eyed tale of the often brutal reality of ranching charted via the changes it brings to a woman's life.
The whole of Here to There is well worth a listen. Fromholz's brief notes include an apt description: "Our manager said he wasn't sure what we were all about but, we were damned interesting." Mostly written by Fromholz and McCrimmon separately, the songs are sort of country and sort of folk; the most rock-ish track was the lone writing collaboration by the duo, "There You Go," which also served as the only single. ("Bosque County Romance" was the flip, under the title "Mary Martin.")
At least one more undeniable Fromholz classic resides in its grooves -- the barroom storytelling of "The Man in the Big Hat" -- resting comfortably along the more straight-laced folk songs by McCrimmon. Fromholz's notes also mention flying from Denver to New York to record the album, so I'd always assumed the duo was based there during their time together, a fact confirmed by his online bio.
Somewhat oddly, the album was issued by ABC's Probe imprint, more typically the home of hard rock and prog-ish leaning groups. I have to assume any FM programmers familiar with Probe's usual output didn't make it much past the album's first track. And even if Probe was thoughtful enough to push it at country radio, any jocks who made it past a hippie-fied Fromholz on the front cover probably thought this was too folky for the C+W crowd.
It's the classic pitfall encountered by many lost albums over the years. The label may have known it had something special, but probably was at a loss as to how to promote it. The duo shortly split thereafter, with Fromholz briefly playing in an early version of Manassas with Steve Stills, and eventually settling in Austin; McCrimmon remained in the Denver area. They did reunite to record Frummox II for Fromholz's Felicity label in 1982.
I first heard Here to There in days before it was possible to track down records online, and it took a few years for me to find a copy of my own. The album must have quickly sank without a trace back in the day; the few copies I've encountered have all been cut-outs. Even more criminally, this album has never been reissued legitimately in any form, though a few tracks did show up on a Fromholz compilation CD issued by the Raven Records label in Australia. The good news, though, for those who would like to find a copy today: This album is still so obscure, the original LP can be found at reasonable prices via a Google search by the catalog number. (ABC/Probe CPLP 4511, 1969)