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James Otto - Sunset Man 
Review By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist
4/27/08

"Push it to the limit take it to overload
Keep the party pumpin’ everywhere that I go
Everybody’s rockin’ when they come to the Otto show
I don’t need anybody tellin’ me what to do
I’ve come a long, long way with this bad attitude
Wore a hole through the sole of my alligator boots… 

"Ain’t Gonna Stop" – James Otto

Reassurance, knowing that what you’re doing has approval, is a much-needed thing. And no more so than in the changing world of country music. But James Otto has nothing to fear. With his new album hitting the charts, Sunset Man (Warner Bros), people are starting to take positive notice. Otto, described by John Rich of Big & Rich fame as the biggest voice in country music, recently shadowed George Strait, a performer with 56 chart placements, to second place on the Billboard Album charts. The significance of that achievement shows Otto is finally gaining the wider recognition his music deserves.

"As long as I can possibly remember I have been obsessed with music," Otto tells at his web site. "Listening to it on the radio, getting into my mom’s record collection—my tastes have changed, but music has been there my whole life."

The trinity of crafted songs, slick production and a voice laying claim to what the 6’5’’ crooner calls "country soul" only adds support to needed dues now paid in full.

Otto started his career early – he was singing at four. Coming from a military family, he was born at Fort Louis Army Base in Washington. The son of a drill sergeant, Otto spent a fair slice of the formative years in Army bases across the US. Along the way, inspired by his dad and grandfather, both part-time musos, it wasn’t long before he started making his own brand of twang. He picked up a guitar at 13 and followed the dream of music, ending up in later years in Nashville, after a two-year Guam-based stint in the Navy.

What followed was a stop start to the singer and songwriter’s music-making career. Signed to Mercury Records with his 2004 debut Days Of Our Lives , Otto, the brother-in law of Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus, failed to ignite the masses. The career snag was due in part to a changing of the managerial guard –three different managers of artist development didn’t help –so too uncertain musical direction for Otto, Shania’s opening act on her 2003 Up! tour. Though the career slipped slightly under the radar, Otto never lost sight of his dream, buoyed by the success of his Music Mafia mates –Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich –who were treading time waiting for their break.

Success happened for them.

Now it’s time for the sunset man to step into the sunlight

Sunset Man is poised to push, willingly, Otto into the glare. The guy can sing. With a gravelled sexiness, women friends fixate when his latest, "Just Got Started Lovin’ You", plays. He growls with a gritty polish, doing his best vocal work on the softer, romantic ballads of the album. Tracks like "For You" with its love-etched ache, the cheating side of romance laid bare on "When A Woman’s Not Watching" and the strains of a tested romance "You Don’t Act Like My Woman" are all sensitive and thoughtful tracks.

The mood lifts with the more energetic cuts. The opening track, "Ain’t Gonna Stop" is a guitar and drum heavy ode to pushing the boundaries, hard and fast, not stopping until the end is within reach. The song could easily serve as a metaphor to Otto’s career. ‘These Are The Good Ole Days" is an easy-played rhythm that lives in the here-and-now, rather than lamenting times gone; a knowing chuckle of familiarity to some no doubt comes with "Drink And Dial". The track tells of the dangers of drinking, soaked and overdosed on bitter resentment, then picking up the phone to unload on those who cross you. It’s not a good or suggested idea, but it makes for cathartic possibilities.

Overall, this is a stellar album. Providing nine co-writes to the 11-track album, sharing in co-production duties with John Rich and Jay DeMarcus the album is emotive, strong and appealing.

And there, friends, is the needed reassurance for your purchase.

Related Links:   
Official Website
MySpace  

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