I was familiar with Ted Russell Kamp (www.tedrussellkamp.com) as a bassist in one of his early bands (Ponticello), but I had never heard him as a front man and songwriter before hearing his new solo album, Night Owl. What a revelation! The first track on the album, "Smile Alone," is high on my list for one of the best songs of 2014. Its gentle Wurly and Hammond organ playing (by Michael Webb and Kamp, respectively) are as tasteful and understated as can be, giving just the right amount of support to this stellar song.
The whole album is well-produced, written, and performed, with a great presence and balance of Wurly and Hammond that give it a timeless/classic feel. Kamp's emotive voice brings character and compassion to the lyrics with a worldly husk and charm. The music definitely dips a leg in the country world but this isn't a country record, per se. It has more of a '70s rock influence than modern country, and a great melodic sense in each of the instrumental elements, with shades of The Band and Procol Harum swirling in the mix. Every lick and fill on guitar and keys feels tastefully placed: a testament both to both Kamp's talents and to the company he keeps. Kamp's bass playing is rock-solid, and his Hammond playing is surprisingly refined. Hearing an album like Night Owl is a wonderful reminder that no matter how mediocre the Top 40 can be, great music is always being written and recorded.