Album Review: James Otto – Sunset Man
James Otto has garnered a few mentions on The 9513 thus far, including making Jim Malec’s list of Artists to Watch in 2008, but even so, his name may not be familiar. Hopefully that will change with the release of his sophomore album, Sunset Man, featuring John Rich and Otto as producers, with Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts taking the reins on a few tracks. In addition, the majority of the songs were written by committee, with Otto’s name appearing on nine of the eleven cuts. By all means, it sounds like Sunset Man is the epitome of everything wrong with modern country music as lamented by it’s detractors, but biases aside, Otto has raised the bar for contemporary country music by releasing a compelling album that doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator.
The upcoming single, “Ain’t Gonna Stop,” starts the album off with a rocker that pays homage to Otto’s MuzikMafia roots and has him humorously namechecking himself. It’s the weakest song on the album, but it’s a worthy showcase for his voice and was most likely included to give him some familiar uptempo material in his live set as well as mix up the ballads that will be sent to radio. The current single sitting at number three on the Mediabase chart, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You,” is an easy goin’ love song that bears a resemblance to Josh Turner’s number one hit, “Your Man,” and is more indicative of the remainder of the album full of smooth flowing ballads.
DeMarcus contributes his talents as producer on three tracks, two of which, “For You” and “You Don’t Act Like My Woman,” are among the best on the album. “For You” has Otto telling his woman that she’s found the one thing that he can’t do for her, while he delivers a fantastic vocal performance. In “You Don’t Act Like My Woman,” a couple is on the verge of a breakup as Otto laments “You don’t act like my woman and I don’t feel like your man” before he sucks up his pride and makes the first move to repair the love that’s about to be thrown away. The third DeMarcus cut, “The Man That I Am,” is a love song written by Cory Mayo and Craig Wiseman and suggestive enough to make a grown woman blush.
There are a few solid songs that don’t stand out when compared to the highlights, including “These Are The Good Ole Days,” “Sunset Man,” and “Damn Right,” but they’re all worthy performances that add to the cohesiveness of the album and help cement it’s quality. “These Are The Good Ole Days” is a fairly nondescript song in which the singer shifts perspective and quits living in the past and starts living in the here and now, the good ole days. It’s a solid lyric with a solid performance and it’s a reply to the nostalgia that’s become such a dominant theme in country music, an anti-nostalgia song if you will. The poignant “Where Angels Hang Around” is almost a little too elusive, but it’ll make you think and appreciate the song even more on successive listens as just one nameless word knocks a family’s life off track. “When A Woman’s Not Watching,” fits in with the best songs on Sunset Man as it claims you can judge the character of a man by the things he does when his woman isn’t around.
James Otto raises the stakes with the release of Sunset Man and contemporary country music would do well to take notice and aspire to achieve similar results. It’s a little ballad heavy, but the smart songwriting and exceptional vocal abilities of Otto make this a quality album worthy of praise.
- mrsandy: Also worth noting: Priscilla Mitchell was Jerry Reed's widow.
- Leeann Ward: Wow! My heart goes out to Allison Moorer. She's had so many terrible things happen in her life. It's too …
- Leeann Ward: I must have this audio book!
- Juli Thanki: Ha! Same thing happened at Sturgill Simpson's show I went to last month, only he was singing "I Never Go …
- Dave D.: On the topic of Lee Ann and dark songs, the funniest moment at this year's Americana Fest was during her …
- Jonathan Pappalardo: I love Lori McKenna. Coming from Massachusetts, she's our local girl. I've been fortunate to see her in concert a …
- bll: I suss her re-recording her hits for 'Gwendolen records' means she can stop MCA from releasing her hits against her.
- Greg Judy: Cooler festivals and marching bands at the football games!
- kevin ilinger: Fall colors bluegrass and apple cider
- luckyoldsun: If I was a "long-time fan" of Trisha, I'd probably spring for the CD.