SUSTO - & I'm Fine Today - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

SUSTO - & I'm Fine Today

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:8 Release Date:2017-01-13

According to the band’s website, “Susto” is a Spanish word that roughly translates into “panic attack,” or more specifically, the time when your soul is separated from your body. After an early start in the music business led to some burn-out at 26, the relatively young Justin Osborne felt the need for spiritual renewal, so he headed to Cuba to hopefully find some meaning beyond music. Instead, he came away with a perfectly apt band name more convinced than ever to pursue his musical whims. & I'm Fine Today is his second album since that sojourn.

Mostly comprised of laid back, country-tinged, acoustic numbers, Osborne’s mournful compositions are nicely surrounded by ideal musical decorations (horns, organ, strings), reminding me a bit of The Band and 90’s world music act Rusted Root (the latter felt heaviest on closer "Jah Werx," a great song to celebrate your Rastafarian faith). He wrote this album as a reflection of what he considers his place in the world and making peace with where he is. Certainly not novel, but there are enough thoughtful yet engaging songs here to overlook the well-trodden philosophical approach.

The single “Hard Drugs” is a Gram Parsons flavored number that is as painfully self-conscious as it is tongue-in-cheek wry. A song about the negative side of drugs hasn’t been done this well since “Sister Morphine.” “I’m just glad that I found you, sorry that I couldn’t keep you around” is a beautifully bittersweet line.

“Far Out Feeling” features soulful strings and backing vocals that harken to Philadelphia circa 1974, like an outtake from Young Americans. “Gay in the South” eschews subtlety for a hard-hitting take on a world that still can’t readily accept differences. “Tell the truth unless you think you should lie,” is a rather straightforward, non-judgmental, albeit resigned piece of advice for those struggling with self-identity issues. Hard to believe in today’s atmosphere that my fellow Yanks could’ve been so naïve as to think that the battle for civil rights was over, but we’re nothing if not a nation content with simple answers to complex problems.

“Mystery Man” has a feel like the Golden Age of laid-back SoCal music that would flourish into the adult contemporary genre. That’s not meant as an insult. Despite the stereotyped image of cheesy, overproduced, oft-misogynistic love songs by acts like The Eagles or post-Peter-Green era Fleetwood Mac, there were also a lot of really good songs made under that nauseating umbrella term.

On the uptempo “Waves,” Osbornes sings about “smoking weed with God,” a line that points at both the spiritual and hippie vibe that runs throughout this navel-gazing effort. & I’m Fine Today is not only a wink-wink cynical line but also a spot-on summary of the mood of this album.

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