Single Review: James Otto, “Groovy Little Summer Song”

There’s been many a discussion this past month about what makes an artist most effective: is it vocal nuance or personal connection? Is it songs with explicit absolute truth or implicit absolute emotion? They’re interesting topics to explore, but somewhere in between the analyses, we’ve lost sight of –and perhaps even appreciation of– the artists who have the potential to make our analyses futile. Because some artists actually have it all.

Let’s be real: “Groovy Little Summer Song” isn’t near James Otto’s most memorable, well-written material. It’s not as infectious as his mega-hit, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You,” nor as impassioned as the lesser-known “For You,” and his soulful phrasing seems to eat up some of the words. But “Groovy Little Summer Song” is an incredibly refreshing re-introduction to an artist who can deliver both rich, distinctive vocals and pure, raw sentiment. Otto may be simply asking a DJ to crank up a cool summer tune, but he still manages to color his performance with shades of believable soul, technical substance (the falsetto is a treat) and authentic summer bliss.

It helps that country radio rarely hears groovy little summer songs, making this one a breath of fresh air against its island-flavored and often one-dimensional peers. Otto’s summer is a little slower-burning and smoother than that of Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Jack Ingram or…Rascal Flatts. It’s a little more contemplative and a little more intoxicating. Country radio’s tried-and-true themes could stand to gain a splash of emotive soul.

As we sift through the crop of mainstream country acts this year, let’s remember to keep an eye on Otto. Like Sunset Man, his upcoming album has the potential to make him a contemporary example of an artist whose strengths are multi-faceted. And we need more of the kind.

Written by Al Anderson, Carson Chamberlain, and James Otto

Grade: B

Listen: Groovy Little Summer Song



  1. Given that it takes like a year for a B-list artist to make a chart run these days, I’m not surprised about the timing of this release. Kellie Pickler’s version of “Santa Baby” should be coming back through the pipeline any day now.

  2. Best song ever!! It caught my attention the first time I heard it and it really stuck with me. I expect it to go number 1 in the next few weeks.

  3. That’s a really good assessment of the song Tara. Premature climax or not, this is a quality track. Although I’m rueing the weather now and wishing this was playing over the sound of a sizzling BBQ!

  4. I loved James Otto’s “Sunset Man” album, and I’m really looking forward to his next one. I absolutely loved “Since You Brought It Up,” and I really like this one. It is far better than it has any right to be, and it’s all because of Otto’s impressive vocal skill. If his career did reach a premature climax (here’s hoping it didn’t-after all, country radio has recently surprised me with its belated acceptance of Chris Young as a major star), it had nothing to do with talent.

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