“Rangeland Lament” is a song recorded by Carol Markstrom and included on her award-winning Desert Rose album. I wrote the original lyrics to it, and it has been a great honor to see my work end up in such a distinguished place.
As with other songs I have written, this piece appeared in a scene in one of my novels. A woman sings it in Death in Cantera. The selection is presented from the point of view of a young woman who laments the loss of her husband, who has died at the hands of paid killers who rub out small homesteaders. This is a mournful song, as the title suggests, about treachery and injustice.
Its development as a recorded song, however, is a happy story. At about the time I was working on the CD album of western songs entitled In a Large and Lonesome Land with W.C. Jameson, in the summer of 2017, I was looking for someone to help me find the music for this song. Because this selection is in a woman’s voice, and because I do not play an instrument or sing in a tolerable way, I had to find someone to collaborate with. At the Western Writers of America convention in 2017, I crossed paths with Micki Fuhrman Milom, whom I knew as a person who had some musical background but I did not know how much. We agreed on a time to meet, and I showed up with my sheet of lyrics.
In my meeting with Micki, I learned that she had extensive experience with music, having had her own band and having done a fair amount of recording. I felt sheepish about taking up the time of someone that accomplished, as I was and still am so naive in this area, but Micki waved off my insecurities and had a look at the lyrics. I told her I was hoping to have someone help me find the music for this. I had an idea of what the melody sounded like, and I had an idea of another song or two that had a similar tune, so I sounded it out. She looked at it, hummed, asked me a couple of questions, and nodded. She asked me what I wanted her to do. I said, as before, that I would like to hear this thing set to music. She asked me if I would like her to do a demo. I said that that was more than I had dared to ask for but I would be delighted. She said that she might be able to do that.
Later that summer, toward the beginning of fall, we communicated a little more, by e-mail and on the phone. A while later, she sent me a demo, first by e-mail and then as a CD. I was transfixed, transported, overwhelmed. Not only is it magical for me to hear a song of mine become a song, but to hear someone who captures the whole idea and feeling so perfectly is stunning.
Micki went on to tell me that she would pitch the song to Carol Markstrom, a well-known western artist whom we both knew through Western Writers of America and who was putting together material for a new album. It was my immense good fortune that Carol liked the song and included it on Desert Rose, which she recorded in Nashville later that fall and released in February of 2018.
I cannot express how indebted I am to Micki and to Carol for taking this ballad of mine, turning it into a song, and putting it out there for the world to hear. This series of events offers a good example of what can be done by people who meet in a professional context such as Western Writers of America and who are willing to lend one another an ear. As with other experiences of mine in which I asked someone to look at and listen to my lyrics, it took a great deal of nerve on my part, and it led me to a great appreciation for a couple of wonderful people.
This album has been very well received with good reviews and prestigious awards, and Carol Markstrom is a rising star in western music.