It may have been inevitable that the paths of Jack Clement and Shawn Camp were to cross. After all, exceptionally talented youngsters have been drawn into Jack's inner circle for over fifty years.
Thus in 1988, a year or so after a twenty-year-old Camp came to Nashville to play fiddle on the Grand Ole Opry with the Osborne Brothers, he found himself in a session upstairs at the Cowboy Arms and Recording Spa with a band called Weary Hearts which included a number of pickers destined for bluegrass stardom - Butch Baldassari, Ron Block, Mike Bub, Chris Jones. He struck up a friendship with a couple of Jack's apprentice engineers, David "Ferg" Ferguson and Cousin Bob, and returned to work on some demos of his own material over the next year or so.
Soon after that Jack came across Shawn at John Prine's house as they were rehearsing the Whole Damn Family, a loose "band" of rotating players featuring Prine, Jim Rooney, Ferg, Pat McLaughlin, and others who got together for an annual Christmas show. After a writing deal with Patrick Joseph Music and a stint as a major label artist on Warner Bros., Shawn signed with the publishing company, Forerunner, two of whose owners were Rooney and Jack's long-time associate Allen Reynolds, producer of Garth Brooks. It was a staff that included Pete Wasner (Vince Gill's piano player), George Marinelli (Bonnie Raitt's guitar player), perennial bluegrass Grammy nominee Tim O'Brien, and Tony Arata, writer of Garth's greatest hit "The Dance". But Shawn was, as Cowboy is wont to call him, the "Boy Wonder". He penned a number of songs covered by mainstream artists, including Randy Travis, Mark Chesnutt, Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson, Del McCoury, Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn who had #1 hits with "Two Piña Coladas" and "How Long Gone" respectively. Reynolds and engineer Mark Miller also produced an album on him, Lucky Silver Dollar.
Allen Reynolds, Cowboy, Shawn, Kenny Malone
After Forerunner was sold to Universal Music Group, Shawn became an in demand co-writer and sideman with the upper echelon of Nashville's singer-songwriters. His collaboration with Jim Lauderdale resulted in two songs on Lost in the Lonesome Pines, a Best Contemporary Bluegrass Grammy winner. He wrote a series of songs and toured as a duo with Guy Clark. As well as working as an opening act for John Prine, he played on his records including the 2006 Grammy winner Fair and Square.
All the while he maintained his friendship with Cowboy Jack. Since 2000, Shawn and Billy Burnette have recorded a number of tunes with Jack for a yet-to-be-released project and played a number gigs, notably a series of sold out shows for the Country Music Hall of Fame as Cowboy's Ragtime Band and other appearances there in tribute ceremonies for Eddy Arnold and Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. Shawn figured in several scenes in the documentary Cowboy Jack's Home Movies, the feature about Clement that has been touring major film festivals around the US and England.
Billy Burnette, Shawn Camp, Jack Clement
In an ultimate gesture of respect, Jack cut Shawn's song "Off To Join The World" (co-written with Mark D. Sanders) for his 2004 Dualtone release. The only other song on the project not written in whole or part by Clement himself was one from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Of all the thousnds of young talents crowding the Nashville scene, Shawn seems to be singled out to carry on the traditions of the greatest of the generation that brought country music to worldwide acclaim. Here are a couple shots of informal jamming in the 1990s at Grandpa Jones's cabin.
(clockwise)Earl Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Shawn, Roland White, John Hartford (back of head)
(clockwise) John Hartford, Grandpa Jones, Mac Wiseman, Roland White, Shawn, Bashful Brother Oswald, Gene Wooten
In 2004, Shawn released an album of original bluegrass songs Live at the Station Inn on Prine's Oh Boy! Records, and in 2006 put out another new critically acclaimed title on Skeeterbit Records, Fireball
Currently juggling a busy schedule of writing and recording, in the first half of 2006, Shawn has continued playing with Guy Clark (at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. as well as Merlefest). He is also getting out of town backed by his own band for performances at major bluegrass festivals Wintergrass (Washington state) and Telluride. Although operating in a forest of mighty tall trees, Camp has not exactly been in the shadows; however, it seems that his career is finally moving out into the open, into full sunlight.
In February of 2006, Shawn Camp was nominated by the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music [SPGBMA] as Songwriter of the Year (Jack's other old friends Tom T. and Dixie Hall won).
And by the end of year Billboard magazine had named Shawn as #10 of the "Hot Country Songwriters" for 2006; his song "Would You Go With Me" by Josh Turner ranking in sixth place for the year.
2007 finds him at work on a new project with buddy Billy Burnette - look for it in April.
Update 3/30/09: "River of Love" sung by George Strait and written by Shawn, Billy, and Dennis Morgan is up to #3 on Billboard charts and still climbing
If you are looking for a fairly extensive bio of Shawn, check here