Talented songwriters who double as band leaders tend to redirect praise, more often crediting those who’ve come together to help them achieve a vision through music.
But the best can only evade ovation for so long and so far — at some point even their bandmates will heap the praise back onto them for bringing it all together to begin with and guiding it forward.
Justin Osborne might not revel in the admiration he’s drawn over the course of nearly 10 years writing and performing as Susto, but he’s most certainly earned it through vividly revealing, straight-ahead songs that emotionally convey his impressions on life, death and whatever comes next.
Wrapping up a busy fall that saw the group visit Baltimore last month, Osborne and his squad made their way to the nation’s capital for a sold-out Dec. 3 performance at The Atlantis, their final show of the year as a full band and a fitting send-off for a tight-knit bunch.
Susto has been out in support of My Entire Life, released in the summertime as its fifth album and second on New West Records. Piloted by the title track and the polychromatic “Hyperbolic Jesus,” it’s a triumph in spirituality, a fearless and adventurous collection of songs inspired by a pivotal period for Osborne, his family and his friends.
Listen to Susto’s fifth studio album, My Entire Life, via Spotify:
With its stimulating blend of sounds that expands or reimagines what might be considered alt-country or Americana, My Entire Life solidifies Osborne as one of the most remarkable artists of today and tracks from the record have made his appearances this year that much more memorable for longtime fans and new ones as well.
At the recent DC engagement, attendees celebrated a colorful, festive set of music, including an all-acoustic segue, as the musicians let loose and enjoyed what would be their last night out on the road in this form for the rest of 2023.
Bolstered by band co-founders Johnny Delaware on guitar and Marshall Hudson, Susto on this tour included Cannon Rogers playing pedal steel, Noah James on keys and bass player Judy Blank, a recording artist who hails from the Netherlands and this fall filled in for regular bassist Kevin Early.
Fans in Acid Boys sweatshirts and toques cheered and laughed all night long at a crew that sounded incredible but by its own admission was a bit goofier, a tad looser than usual.
“We’re full of shit tonight” — Delaware said it.
But a joy to observe even in between songs, the group let its appreciation for one another be known, too, as Osborne and Delaware openly expressed their enjoyment for writing songs together, a delight for those in the room.
“I love writing songs with you, brother,” Osborne told Delaware, who he declared has “the longest legs” in live music.
And though her presence might have been a temporary one, Justin applauded Blank as well for adding punch and personality to this run of shows. Like each night on tour, she leaned back-to-back with Osborne during jams and joined him later in the night for a breathtaking duet, encore version of “Weather Balloons” from the 2019 Susto album Ever Since I Lost My Mind.
Osborne was clearly comfortable in the new venue — he even peeked from behind the curtain to watch David Ramirez open the night — and he was notably affectionate with his friends on stage. Sharing the story behind numerous songs, some old, some fresh, he glowed with a warm appreciation for the supporters who’ve seen his music through when it wasn’t always clear that he would himself.
“Thank you for making us feel right at home,” he told those in the new two-story space.
With a wider perspective granted from the events of the past few years and a skilled, devoted pack of musicians rallied around him, Osborne is gaining recognition for the amazing songs and albums he’s offered to the world, and rightly so.
Listen to Susto’s 2021 studio album, Time In The Sun, via Spotify:
Life Is Suffering
My Entire Life
Good Right Now
Jah Werx (full-band acoustic)
Cowboys (full-band acoustic)
Break Free (full-band acoustic)
Weather Balloons (Justin Anderson and Judy Blank duo)
Friends, Lovers, Ex-Lovers, Whatever
Here are home-developed, home-scanned 35mm motion picture film shots of Susto along with the night’s opener, David Ramirez, performing at The Atlantis in Washington DC the night of Dec. 3, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Ryan Vock.