Chas Justus & the Jury, Chas Justus & the Jury (Black Pot Records)

In the Spirit of Bob Wills


When the reign of the western swing-centric Red Stick Ramblers ended and the next-gen band the Revelers launched with a completely different format, there was a void. Hence, the impetus for Chas Justus’ Jury, comprised mostly of Red Sticks and Revelers plus fiddler extraordinaire/RSR alumnus Kevin Wimmer.

In the spirit of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Justus set out to record with minimal overdubs and eradicate the lines between western swing, jazz and honky tonk. Other than engineer Chris Stafford’s steel guitar on two tracks, this was all recorded live—impressive considering the tightly synchronized twin lines where two instruments play the melody in unison. On “Along the Navajo Trail,” Daniel Coolik switched from twin fiddles with Wimmer to electric mandolin to twin with Justus (guitar) before switching back to fiddle, all without missing a lick.

“Twin Guitar Special,” “Airmail Special” and “Splanky” are major swing romps with saxophonist Chris Miller blending in perfectly with the stringed instruments with arty and unobtrusive jazz solos.

The highlights are many. Megan Brown gives a heart-melting, emotionally draining performance on the bilingual “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” in the spirit of Cléoma Breaux Falcon, while “Navajo Trail” ranks among the dreamiest versions ever. But after all the dust has settled, it’ll be the lone original, Justus’ “When Tomorrow Comes Along,” that’ll tug the heart strings the hardest. Clarinetist/vocalist Chloe Feoranzo delivers a stunning performance, hanging on long notes for a bone-chilling effect. When it comes to this courtroom, there’s never a hung jury.