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Monday, Aug. 9, 2021

Jimmy Wooten


They're Playing Our Song

With a sharply-trimmed red beard and subtly sculpted physique, singer Jimmy Wooten is ubiquitous in local restaurants, clubs and special events and is poised to move up a notch with a new recording.

It's a curious release: a mid-tempo country tune that has been around since it was a hit in 1995. It is "They're Playin' Our Song." But it's a passion project for Wooten.

That tune is "owned" by platinum-selling country music singer Neal McCoy. It charted at number 3 for McCoy.

For the past seven years, Wooten has been the bassist in McCoy's touring band. Being on tour with McCoy has been a dream come true for Wooten.

"Playing for audiences numbering in the thousands has constituted a huge start-up for me," said Wooten.

Among the notable big shows have been several performances at the Grand Ole Opry.

Interestingly, McCoy had a similar introduction to big audiences. Country music legend Charlie Pride (1934 - 2020) did the same for McCoy in the 1980s.

Now Wooten is carefully releasing his smartly-retouched "They're Playin' Our Song." He notes, "This one was always fun to play live. And I feel this one fits me."

Carefully, because it's a country song, while he has spent years establishing himself as a hard-rocking entertainer. "It may not seem like me to release a mid-tempo country song," admits Wooten. Nonetheless, his fans will learn that Wooten knows how to give a country song a super-cool treatment. The McCoy song has a chorus of harmonies that are strongly reminiscent of the Eagles.

Listen for a slight rasp in his voice in new recordings and shows. The rasp is subtle but atmospheric; it's emblematic of a rebirth in performing.

The Covid period changed his purview and purpose, he says. "I was getting jaded about the business of music," he explains. "During Covid I found a silver lining. I pulled back and began to breathe. I changed my outlook on music." Today, he says he is more likely to tell a story to accompany a song and more likely to chat with people in the audience between sets.

His appreciation for McCoy's help is profound. "Neal McCoy is revered as the best entertainer in country music," says Wooten. Having learned Neal's high energy, quipfilled approach to concerts, Jimmy leaves the McCoy band to pursue his solo career with honed energy.

Wooten is the father of 2-year-old Woods and 4-year-old Wilder and the husband of Sara Wooten, a Pilates instructor. He is happy to report he has achieved an enviable financial landmark for an artist: His family lives well on his music income.

At a recent performance at Ki Mexico restaurant, his merchandise, including T-shirts and album downloads, sold steadily between sets. Smiling fans deposited tips on the stage before exiting. In his home studio, his producing and playing skills are in demand.

"I've been playing drums since I was age 4. My parents, James and Tammy Wooten, had a classic country group called the Gator-Dilla Band." His sister, Laura, grew up inundated in music, of course. The brother-sister team has been performing together for decades, with Laura supplying backup on bass and vocals.

At Caddo Magnet High School, he developed his lead guitar chops and began to sing. He jammed alongside classmates Adam Davis and Jesse Gabriel, later to be members of Shreveport's nationally-known Seratones.

Since then, Wooten has been steadily performing in the Shreveport- Bossier area, from solo and trio performances to sitting in with David Deaton and numerous others. Young performer Josh Love says, "He's a fantastic multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter. He has exceptional stage presence. And his vibe is matched by his songwriting talent."

Notes Greg Preslar, "Jimmy is focused and driven. Also, well aware of his 'brand' and development." Preslar continues, "Independent of his virtuosity on vocals and multiple instruments, what I see most emblematic of the Jimmy Wooten brand is his character. Through quarantine live streams or producing recordings for others, his family, faith and earnest appreciation for people permeates all interactions."

Also touched by his Covid performances is Lisa Brutto, proprietor of Logan Mansion. "Jimmy's playing is music from his heart. And he poured his heart out in the Covid shows. There's meaning behind every word." Brutto has hired Wooten numerous times for parties and shows. "He resonates with people regardless of their age," she says. "His music persona is at the heart of the earth. And it's all real."

As a young performer, Wooten created a series of bands. There was the very hardrocking Systolic. In 2005, Systolic featured some of the hot young guns of the area: Jonathan Machen, Cody Lowery and Ryan Dougherty. They wrote and played songs that bring notes of King's X.

Lions May Cry is his group away from his brand name. Numerous recordings and well-made videos have come from Lions May Cry (LMC). "She's Already Gone," 2012, remains a very watchable and rocking performance. In 2014 Lions May Cry broke their mold with a soaring, hard-rocking version of "O Holy Night." It was performed with a light heart but was reverent regarding the song's spiritual history. In 2020 Wooten issued a serious, deeply-rocking version of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." You can read a stream of devotion to Christian liturgy in the video via his face. LMC players always include long-time music friend and co-producer Cody Lowery on drums and bassist-singer Laura Wooten Wilson.

His most recent song and video are "Shine." It is a mid-tempo, crunchy rocker (see https://jimmywooten.net/home) with an expansive hook that features harmonies reminiscent of the Eagles. While the lyrics might be interpreted as bluesy, he describes it today as a gospel tune.

Says performer David Deaton, "Jimmy started coming to Alligator Joe's when he was too young to get in. He was playing drums, bass and guitar with me. On a musical level, Jimmy is 100% pro. Aware, on time, in tune, prepared and can play anything or make it up." Deaton says, "It's very rare to find a person of his caliber. I've been honored to have been able to play with him so long."

Preslar speaks for many when he notes, "Mr. Jimmy Wooten is a class act. A local treasure, he's a singer that everyone should hear and get to know. His popular single, 'Shine,' is very apropos to mention with Jimmy Wooten. He shines."

Neal McCoy has a word to add from his house in Longview, Texas: "My longtime bass player and longer time friend Jimmy Wooten has gone and done a masterful job of covering one of our biggest hits, 'They're Playing our Song on the Radio.' In his own cool way he has turned it into a little, newer, fresher, yet still recognizable version of what it was. I hope you'll go support him and his new EP with this leadoff cut of one of my songs!"


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