Alt-country acts SUSTO and Johnny Delaware had Redux at maximum capacity last Wednesday at the fourth show of the Hearts & Plugs Redux Residency, which literally sold out in a matter of minutes. Americana-rock artist Johnny Delaware's remarkably honest lyrics and masterful compositions were a natural fit with SUSTO, who have pioneered the "cosmic country" genre—a blend of Southern calypso with brooding undertones. "It was great to do SUSTO and Johnny Delaware together," remarks SUSTO frontman Justin Osborne. "The crowd really showed up, and everyone seemed to have a chillwave, cruise-ship-feel type of vibe, which is exactly what we were hoping for!" Both bands are new to H+P, and their split-release vinyl (Johnny Delaware side A, SUSTO side B) marks not only their initial release on the label, but also the first vinyl pressing for Hearts & Plugs.
Johnny Delaware, photographed by Mishka Pretlow
Local heartthrob Johnny Delaware kicked off the night with full band in tow and included his two newest tunes from the H&P vinyl split, "Time" and "Truth," as part of his set. Traipsing onto the Holy City music scene only a few years ago, Johnny's dexterity with songwriting caught Dan McCurry's eye immediately. "Johnny writes unbelievably good songs, I mean, the man has a way with words. He also sings like a songbird—like, I am pretty sure he was a songbird in a former life," says Dan, founder of Hearts & Plugs. "We here in Charleston are really happy to have him around. He brings a smile to everyone's day. Johnny's got a heart of gold, and he's rather handsome in his cowboy boots and classic Wrangler jeans." Delaware is originally from the prairie of South Dakota but felt that as a musician, he wasn't reaching his full potential in the Midwest. After years of succumbing to wanderlust in search of a way to elevate his music career, Delaware finally settled in Charleston to work with producer Wolfgang Zimmerman to record his first album, Secret Wave, released in 2013 to much acclaim. With a nod to his nomadic exploits, Delaware has an adroit sound steeped in existentialism while at the same time offering an introspective glimmer of hopefulness, his trademark attitude both in the studio and in everyday life.
Justin Osborne of SUSTO, photographed by Mishka Pretlow
After a stunning intermission by Mr. Bonetangles, the fellas of SUSTO dominated the stage. SUSTO was born a few years ago out of the ashes of lead singer Justin Osborne's previous band, Sequoyah Prep School. Shortly after the group's dismemberment in 2013, the ubiquitous Osborne rounded up various musicians in the area and began experimenting with what he dubs "dark gospel" sounds. Amidst various lineup changes, Justin later hooked up with songwriter and multi-faceted musician Johnny Delaware, drummer Marshall Hudson, and guitarist Corey Campbell to comprise a permanent lineup, with old pal and former Sequoyah guitarist Jordan Hicks stepping in to play bass on occasion. The band released their debut self-titled album in 2014, with jams such as "Acid Boys" (now a reigning anthem representing a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle), the aptly named "Black Jesus," and the lovedrunk "County Line," written by Delaware with guest vocals by Lily Slay of The Royal Tinfoil. The newest record, Live from the Australian County Music Hall of Fame, a live session recorded at the infamous hangout and fake music venue, features a plethora of Charleston VIPs, including Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses and Carissa's Wierd and country-rock goddess Jordan Igoe, among others. The album came out digitally on April 1, with a cassette tape release set for this June through Fuzz Row Records as part of the summer tour with Caitlin Harnett. Both Delaware and SUSTO will be performing at Monster Music on April 18 for Record Store Day, where the 7-inch split will be available for purchase. Although Osborne jokingly acknowledges that "Thursdays have sucked for the last month because Wednesdays have been crazy wild," both Justin and Johnny were both beyond thrilled with the turnout and view the entire Hearts & Plugs series as a great success.
The final concert of the residency is this Wednesday, April 15, with performances by indie darling Grace Joyner and newcomer Hermit's Victory, the brainchild of Tyler Bertges and the latest addition to Hearts & Plugs. Hermit's Victory is celebrating their self-titled release, and copies of the album will be available for purchase at the show as part of the debut. Tickets are still up for grabs for $7/ADV or $8 at the door. Doors are at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. All ages are welcome to attend, with adult beverages available for those 21 and over. Trust me, you won't want to miss it.