SUSTO, an export of Charleston, S.C., is returning to Savannah after a highly successful year and with a new album in tow.
The folk-rock, alt-country outfit just finished touring in support of the highly lauded Lumineers, and earlier this year released, to acclaim, their second studio album,"& I'm Fine Today." The album debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and No. 1 on Amazon's Movers & Shakers chart.
They've recently performed live on "CBS This Morning: Saturday," and in streamed sessions for NPR, Rolling Stone and Paste Magazine. Later this month, the will head out on a Florida tour with The Head and the Heart.
Built around the songwriting of Justin Osborne, the young band has garnered attention for a unique blend of folk rock reminiscent of classic country with modern indie-rock sensibilities.
They return to Savannah after an appearance at the 2016 Savannah Stopover Music Festival, as well as the Service Brewing anniversary party last summer. Over the last year, SUSTO has embodied the the spirit of Stopover - a festival that mostly features bands on the verge of breaking out.
The project began with Osborne leaving the Lowcountry in search of adventure and with the idea of departing a life of songwriting. However, in Cuba, he began writing songs that would eventually become the foundation of SUSTO. He returned to the States with a new outlook.
A word he had learned as an anthropology student kept reverberating with what he was feeling. A Spanish word that means fright or scare, susto is often used to denote a panic attack, and in some Hispanic cultures takes on a more spiritual overtone.
"I'm not religious, but I do find myself lost and experiencing what I would call 'susto,'" Osborne said in an interview with Mind Equals Blown. "Those times in my life are what I typically write about. It just felt like the most perfect band name and I'm really glad I chose it. I still feel like it fits the message of the band so well.
"I never thought I'd be so thankful for a band name, but truth be told, the good ones can be really hard to come by."
Back in Charleston after his Cuban adventure, he was introduced to Johnny Delaware, who would become his right-hand songwriting man. The two formed a live band around those early Osborne compositions with Corey Campbell, Jenna Desmond and Marshall Hudson, and now have solidified a cohesive touring and recording unit.
Osborne's singer/songwriter heart has anchored much of SUSTO's music. On their debut album, Osborne's tunes were often an inward search, with reflection on his own transitional moments. Through the latest album, SUSTO's core has remained the same, but with expanded tonal and lyrical perimeters.
The new album "& I'm Fine Today" swells with paunchy chorus lines, both subtle and bright horn sections and multi-dimensional guitar work. They resonate a hallmark of indie-rock and folk sounds from bands like Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, but with Osborne's unbridled, sometimes unhinged, but always honest songwriting centering the tunes.
On "Cosmic Cowboy," Osborne declares his New South iconoclast: "I am a Southern man/But I am an atheist." Hitting on the often controversial LGBTQ issues in the South, the Wilco-drenched "Gay in the South" echoes support for the community from the standpoint of an ally. "Hard Drugs" is an open portrait of substance abuse, with remnants of old country western at its foundation. The bittersweet tones of "Havana Vieja," a gothic narrative, carries the second half of the band's strongest studio effort yet.
Osborne and company have expanded dramatically through two albums, yet held the magic of that initial musical spark alive, and seemingly have an upward path laid ahead.
Another Stopover alum, folky singer/songwriter Becca Mancari, along with Savannah's own Isaac Smith, will open for SUSTO on May 5 at The Jinx. In Cinco De Mayo tradition, The Jinx will have special cocktails to celebrate the holiday.
IF YOU GO
What: SUSTO with Becca Mancari and Isaac Smith
When: 8 p.m. May 5
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.