James Otto has taken things to a whole new level. The MuzikMafia (i.e., Big and Rich, Keith Anderson and Gretchen Wilson) member turned out a very good debut with Days of Our Lives in 2002, to be sure, but with a change of label (from Mercury to Warner Brothers) and fellow Mafia honcho John Rich, along with Jay DeMarcus (of Rascal Flatts) producing, Otto has recorded what amounts to a perfect record album. This is my kind of country, and James has one of my favorite country voices since Travis Tritt.
Otto really shines brightest on his ballads, especially on “Where Angels Hang Around,” his tribute to St. Judes Children’s Hospital. It’s a beautiful song packed with real emotion. "For You" is another winner. Backed by a crying pedal steel and acoustic guitar, it’s a song about life after a breakup from the point of view of a man who wants the girl back. It's a haunting tune, beginning with acoustic guitar and building up with piano, strings and drums.
"Sunset Man," the title cut, may be the closest thing to traditional country here, but the pedal steel and guitar is very reminiscent of early Marshall Tucker Band music. You know I like that. As a matter of fact, there is an air of Southern Rock flavor throughout the album, from the very first track and Otto's latest single, “Ain’t Gonna Stop,” a song that could easily fit onto a Lynyrd Skynyrd album.
The lead-off single to Sunset Man, "Just Got Started Lovin' You," with it’s 70’s Top 40 sound has already become Otto's highest-charting single, reaching Number One on the country charts. No small wonder.
Otto goes tongue in cheek with "Drink and Dial,” and blends r&b with country on “Your Good Thing’s Gone Bad.” One notable fact is that Otto wrote or co-wrote nearly all of these songs, and there’s not a filler in the bunch. Sunset Man is a great album from a man whose own sun has only begun to rise.
-Michael Buffalo Smith