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James Otto has serious and rockin' moments at Penn's Peak

  • Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS James Otto performs at Penn's Peak, Sunday night.
    Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS James Otto performs at Penn's Peak, Sunday night.
Published May 03. 2010 05:00PM

You likely never heard the song "Soldiers and Jesus" unless you were at Penn's Peak last night.

"Soldiers and Jesus" was only recently written by singer-songwriter James Otto. He performed at the Jim Thorpe venue last night and told the audience they were among the first people hearing it.

It was obvious the crowd loved the patriotic number. It definitely has the potential to become a big hit.

A disappointing small audience was in attendance for Otto's 70-minute concert. One reason for the poor turnout is probably because he's a relatively new performer and has recorded only one number one song. He presently has his second charted record.

Don't be surprised if this talented native of Washington state some day makes a return to Penn's Peak and plays before a sell-out house with many hits under his belt - including "Soldiers and Jesus."

He has a strong voice, a great rapport with the audience, and a fantastic stage presence.

Actually he has had two number one hits: He recorded "Just Got Started Lovin' You" which reached the top of the country charts in 2007. He co-wrote "In Color" which was "Song of the Year" by the ACM and CMA a couple of years ago. "In Color" was a number one hit for Jamey Johnson.

"Soldiers and Jesus" was inspired - as was "In Color" - by his grandfather, who was a Korean War veteran. Otto said the grandfather never talked much about the war, but he knows his grandfather saw some of his best friends die on the battlefield.

The chorus line says, "God only knows where we'd be, without soldiers and Jesus."

He mentioned that his father was a 23-year veteran of the Army and was a drill sergeant. Otto had joined the Navy at age 19.

Most of the concert by the Nashville MuzikMafia member (which also boasts membership by Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson) was loud, with some rock and some blues apparent within the tunes.

He opened with the rockin' "These Are the Good Ole Days" from his "Sunset Man" album.

His current charted record, "Groovy Little Summer Song," was the third song he sang.

The stocky, muscular performer war a maroon shirt covered by a black vest, faded black jeans, and a newsboy-style cap.

He told the audience about past tours with such headliners as Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Trace Adkins, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He mentioned that when he's the warmup band, having just one major hit he still has an obligation to put the crowd in a partying mood. He then had the crowd join in as he sang, "Louder, Louder. We Came To Party."

Most of the audience stood in front of the stage and danced along to his music.

His "In Color" was the most anticipated song, as evident by its generation of the loudest applause of the night.

One cover he sang - and the only classic country hit he did - was the Ronnie Milsap hit, "There's No Getting Over Me."

Jim and Dana Chattin drove from Warminster, Bucks County to see the concert and were impressed with the young performer.

"I thought he was great," Dana said. "The music and his personality were great."

Jim added, "I like how personable he was."

Both said this was there first visit to Penn's Peak. "It's a great venue and we are very impressed," Dana remarked.

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