I like to believe, somewhere beyond the grave, Terry Kath is smiling. Todd Omohundro attended a 1977 Chicago concert and the brilliant guitarist riveted the young man with his transformative six string skills. Kath, likewise, awakened him to music’s possibilities in a wider way than ever before. Omohundro resolved then and there to write and perform his own music. It isn’t the clarion call of potential fame and fortune motivating his ten song collection The Future is Calling but, instead, an inspiring example of an artist invigorated by creation and intent on communicating joy to his listeners.
Omohundro conveys his love for music and performing even when the topic isn’t especially joyful. Many lines of the title song take an unblinking look at life but his maturity and innate hopefulness burn through in both the song’s payoff and his verse by verse phrasing. This is someone who sounds like there’s nothing he’d rather be doing than singing. Beginning an album with its title song is a subtle show of confidence as well. Our wont for considering title songs to be definitive statements of a kind makes them important tracks and artists typically place such songs at an album’s mid-way point or near its conclusion. Not so here. He leads with the song, sure of its message, and makes a declaration of purpose.
“Taste of Honey” is one of the album’s best rock moments. There’s an abundance of first rate lead guitar throughout this song but it’s never ornamental. Instead, the six string work pulls an already fine track up several levels thanks to its coherence and sensible phrasing. Self-indulgence during this release is near nil. “Taste of Honey”, as well, makes effective use of backup singers. “Drowning in Content” has two musical highlights for me – its swirling piano melodies and more dramatic lead guitar.
Some consider it a passé instrument at this point. Omohundro understands, though, how this venerable mainstay of popular music can sharpen a song’s emotional edge. It definitely brings his subject matter into focus. “Drowning in Content” wonders how we can keep our grip on sanity and what matters in the face of the media onslaught we face in the modern world. It’s never preachy, though, and has an essentially human-first bent widening its accessibility for listeners.
The start-stop arrangement for “Squeeze It In My Soul” sparkles, in part, thanks to the interplay between Omohundro and the backing singers. His debt to Chicago and acts of that style are clear, but Omohundro’s songwriting is ultimately a blending of singer/songwriter and “big tent” pop music. The latter isn’t just keyboards, synths, and pre-programmed instrumentation. It’s songwriting embracing the fundamentals of construction and mixing several styles into a potent synthesis like we hear with this number.
“Far Away” has stately drumming befitting its measured pace. Omohundro applies light echo to his vocals enhancing its dramatic tone without ever overstepping and, besides tasteful synthesizer color, it’s the song’s only noticeable affectation. It helps invoke atmospherics for one of the album’s most heartfelt moments. The Future is Calling will end this year, I am sure, as being among the best releases I’ve heard in 2021. It’s a winner from beginning to end.