Justin Otto

Justin Otto
The $7 EP

self published

By Elliott Morehardt
May 2011

Justin Otto is yet another emerging artist/one-man band steeped in the deep blues, folk-country scene. His first independent release, self-titled Justin Otto, carries eight tunes, each one with its own style, quite an accomplishment for the one-man band format. Hailing from Florida's panhandle, Justin regularly plays in the Pensacola area, and is deeply committed to the "live" experience. Fans of the deep-country blues movement outside of Pensacola can now be grateful that this talented musician has discovered the recording studio.

Otto's guitar work is quite fine throughout the CD, and I'm particularly intrigued with his vocal stylings. The artist comes off as humble and unpretentious while thoroughly entertaining the listener with a great variety of songs and styles. The first song is a Townes Van Zandt cover, “Where I Lead Me,” which opens up like “Friends” off of Led Zeppelin III, triggering my nostalgia receptors right back to 1970. The second track, an original “To Find You,” shows real solid songwriting skills about undiscovered or lost love. The old Tampa Red tune, “Things Go Wrong,” is the classic deep-blues song on the CD. Justin heads back into nostalgia land with a fun version of Mungo Jerry's “Summertime,” and ends the CD with another fun and sweet cover of the traditional fast-picking “Crawdad Song.”

While the covers play out nicely, it’s the originals that show a real depth of musicianship. “Shake It” shows off some of Justin's lightening-fast vocal stylings and guitar playing. “Goin' Under” is a beautiful, easy going country tune in the best classic American style of that genre. Hard to pick a favorite here, but Justin's other original, “Sun Don't Shine,” might be it. Almost a sister song to “Find You,” “Sun Don't Shine” is a nice mix of country blues. A song of retribution, it has an underlying calm anger waiting for that karmic sledgehammer to come down on the ones that did us wrong.

This combination of humility and talent bodes well for Justin Otto. He is currently working on another recording, but do yourself a favor and grab this one first. After many listens, it’s still fresh. If you have a chance to catch him live please do so, because according to Justin, "live shows are where music thrives!"


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