In 1993, Arkansas native Shawn Camp released his first CD on Reprise Records. The album contained two minor country music hits, and his label expected the follow-up album to be his "breakthrough." But there was one problem. The second album didn't sound like the latest Nashville hits, and was shelved. Camp went on to write hit songs for Garth Brooks, George Strait, and Brooks and Dunn. But, a chance meeting has given new life to Shawn Camp's second CD.
The song "Near Mrs." opens Shawn Camp's long-lost "1994" CD, an album that sat on the shelf for 16 years before finally being released just a few weeks ago.
"I always thought I'm either going to have to die or have a hit before it would come out," Camp said. "And so far, today, I'm alive … and here it is."
Which is modest, since he has had many hits.
"I've had a few [hits] here and there," Camp said. "But it [the second album] would never have seen the light of day, had I not gotten acquainted with John Esposito, who is the President of Warner Music Group in Nashville. We just hit it off in a little guitar pull at the Leadership Music opening retreat. First, he said 'Who are you, and what do you do?' And I said I used to be an artist on the label that you run! We laughed about that, and he said 'I'm going to go into the vault and look for your records and listen to them.' I said 'OK,' and the next time I saw him, he said 'I'm going to put your records out!' And I said 'OK.' And here we are today! It's pretty shocking."
When Shawn Camp presented his second album to the label, they wanted him to make some changes: remove the fiddles and the dobros, while adding electric guitars. But that wasn't the sound Shawn wanted, and he refused to do it. He went on to write hit songs and release four CDs on his own. But Shawn says he just couldn't forget the 10 songs that make up his "lost" second album.
"Years down the road, I'm still trying to buy it from them, but they wanted 150,000 bucks for me to buy this, and it was just out of my range to spend that much," Camp said. "And I tried to lease it from them, but there was too much red tape until John Esposito stepped in to the picture, and started making things happen."
His reaction to digging it up?
"Just kind of numb. It's like a cloud just hovers over your shoulder if you've made a record, and it's laying on the shelf," he said. "And there are people all over town that this has happened to. It's just like a bad dream that you don't want to think about. For it to come to fruition here, today, it's a great relief. It's a wonderful thing."
"1994" is a musical time capsule, capturing Shawn Camp and some of Nashville's best studio musicians as they were 16 years ago. While he's never put them on another album, among the 10 songs on "1994" are a few that Shawn performed onstage regularly. They include "The Grandpa That I Know," which has also been recorded by Patty Loveless and Joe Diffie. Shawn Camp thought about re-recording it for another album, but in the end simply hoped that this record would be released.