The most difficult thing about today's post is figuring out how to classify this record. I scored it last summer at Record Dugout - one of the last decent old school record stores on the South Side of Chicago (although I admit that it can be very hit or miss) - not knowing what the hell it was. The photography on the album sleeve definitely piqued my curiosity, however, so after arranging a bulk discount with the proprietor, I included it with a sizable stack of vinyl that I brought home on that particular day. It's gotten regular play on my turntable ever since.
Frummox was the collective name for two Texas singer-guitarists, Steven Fromholz (pictured in the first photo above) and Dan McCrimmon (the fellow wearing glasses in the second photo). Although McCrimmon wrote three of the tunes that appear on Here to There and co-authored another, Fromholz is the more significant artist with his songs having been covered by the likes of Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Hoyt Axton, and Jerry Jeff Walker as well as being named Texas' poet laureate by the state legislature in 2007. Indeed, some music writers consider him to be an important founding figure of Austin's Outlaw country music scene and view the album as a precursor to the records in this sub-genre that would appear during the following decade. So, how to classify Here to There? Something along the lines of proto-Outlaw country with a touch of rock and psych would seem to be the most appropriate.
Although acoustic guitars predominate, some tracks feature more production than others. The inner gatefold notes list the names of several supporting musicians, most prominently Eric Weissberg (best known for supplying the banjo music to the soundtrack of the movie Deliverance), who contributed guitar, pedal steel guitar, bass, mandolin, and fiddle to this project. Upon first listening, I took Here to There to be a concept album, but now I think it is more of a thematic piece than one with a definite plot. To my reckoning, the songs concern themselves in various ways with a tradition-heavy part of the US coming to terms with the changing times of the 1960s. To wit, the LP begins with a spoken word introduction that beautifully sets the mood for the next 35 minutes:
We'd like to take you travelin' with us, cross country through the desert Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, especially Arizona. It's a hot day and as we drive along, we can't help thinkin' that a cold beer and sandwich sure would go good. So we pull up and stop in front of the only saloon in a dusty little town. Sign over the door says "Harold's Cave Creek Corral." Push our way inside. Few people there, singin', drinkin' beer, maybe playin' the jukebox once in awhile. Up at the bar is a cowboy. He's about two sizes larger than life. He's talkin' about the way things used to be.Thus the stage is set for the beautifully atmospheric "Man with the Big Hat." "Kansas Legend" tells the story of Bill Orr, "the youngest, toughest dirt farmer on the Kansas border land" who chose death over letting the bank foreclose on his family land. Judging by its title, "Song for Stephen Stills" seems to be a tribute to the more famous musician whom Fromholz had befriended and apparently played with at one time before pursuing a solo career, while "Jake's Song" is simply a lovely, gentle ballad. The album's most profound moments, however, belong to the "Texas Trilogy" suite, a stirring recollection of Texas small town life inspired by Fromholz's childhood memories. "There You Go" deserves recognition as first-rate country psych nugget what with its mind-expanding arrangements that effectively feature both twangy guitars and sighing strings. I'm not sure what the cryptic title of "Weaving Is the Property of Few These Days" means exactly, although I think it may be a metaphor for composing songs. Had Nick Drake been a Texas troubadour, this is what he might have sounded like. "Lovin' Mind" is another soothing ballad that serves as a perfect closing track, even if you find yourself thinking that this album comes to a conclusion just a bit too soon.
1. Man in the Big Hat
2. Kansas Legend
3. Song for Stephen Stills
4. Jake's Song
5. Texas Trilogy A) Daybreak
6. Texas Trilogy B) Trainride
7. Texas Trilogy C) Bosque Country Romance
8. There You Go
9. Weaving Is the Property of Few These Days
10. Lovin' Mind