By Courtney Harrell
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But with great achievement often comes great disappointment. Soon after the Red Rocks date, both Foehl's brother and the other member of the group took off, and Foehl had to decide whether to continue the band with new players or to move on. He decided to find new musicians. "It was a really good band," he says. "It was actually a better band. But there was something magical about the first. Even though it wasn't maybe as talented musically, it had that 'it' factor that you can't describe."
Three years down the road at a California festival, Acoustic Junction, which by then had released three successful releases on its own, attracted the attention of Capricorn Records, which offered to put out the outfit's next album. But almost before the ink was dry on the contract, the label urged the act to change its name to Fool's Progress, insisting that its current moniker was too limiting. Problem was, as Acoustic Junction, Foehl had spent eight years building a brand.
The Fool's Progress debut hit stores in 1997, but instead of bolstering the band's fan base, the name change simply confounded existing followers. Two years later, Foehl and company recorded Strange Days, which they then presented to Capricorn. The label opted not to release the disc and ultimately let them out of their contract, taking the new record with them. They promptly changed their name back to Acoustic Junction and linked up with Omad Records, which issued the disc in 1999. But the act broke up soon after.
As he entered the next decade, Foehl was faced with the end of his band, the dissolution of his marriage and the impending death of his father, who'd been diagnosed with lung cancer. He spent the better part of the next two years shuttling back and forth from here to Massachusetts, where he helped care for the man who'd had such a profound impact on him early on. He also worked on Spark, his first solo record. While that disc was well received, Foehl feels that his latest effort, Stoned Beautiful, truly captures him.
Written in the years following his father's death, Beautiful finds Foehl mining the emotional wreckage left by that pivotal event and his failed marriage in a way that's thoughtful, reflective and poignant. The songs that fill the album — many of which were penned with Putnam Murdock, a childhood friend whose dad had also been diagnosed with cancer and had played in the Centre Streeters, Foehl's parents' bluegrass combo — are imbued with a tangible, stinging pathos.
With lines like "Stripped of his clothes and cursing the cancer/God's only got so many prayers he can answer/There's millions of eyes and millions of souls/Somebody's bound to be left in the cold," "Chances Are" will cause anyone who's experienced the loss of a patriarch to shudder and well up. "My Sweet Heart," meanwhile, with its gently swelling pedal steel and the words "If you can't find the magic, head for the door/'Cause it could be more tragic to live in this war/It's best to surrender than to hurt anymore," plays like an elegy to love not so much lost as mutually abandoned.
Like all great music, Foehl's songs have a bittersweet quality that's easy to relate to, which explains why so many music supervisors have placed his songs. But Foehl — who just returned from Washington, D.C., where he recorded a live set for XM radio and will begin working on a new record in November — is just grateful that his music is being used in ways that are meaningful.
"I've been very lucky," he concludes. "My music has been used in profound and audible ways. It could've just been played in the background. I mean, it's already a coup to get it on there, but then when it's used in a nice way — because you never know, they could chop your song up — it's wonderful."