If you like country music, and especially if your taste spans contemporary and classic country (though seek your Little Big Town hits elsewhere), Junto is probably the band for you. The local five piece — Win Webster, Jay Franck, Chris Porter, Steve Harnois and Doug Blaney — is made up of members of Sanctum Sully, Common Foundation and CrazyHorse & Colston.
The group launched its Saturday show at Altamont Brewing Co. with covers of Sturgill Simpson and Dwight Yoakam before breaking out an original song. Webster’s “Any Other Way,” was melodic and steady with an emotional pang. Harmonica, played by Franck, provided a nice foil to the two-step amble of bass and drums while Harnois, taking a turn on Dobro, added texture.
Franck, known for his bluegrass mandolin prowess, went in a different direction on a cover of Ween’s “Help Me Scape the Mucus off my Brain.” For that song, electric mandolin played through effects gave the song a psychedelic twist. That sound carried over to the Flying Burrito Brothers-eque “Judgement Line,” another original. There, the bass took on a more complicated air while Webster and Franck’s vocal harmonies showcased the ease they’d gained from years of singing together in Sanctum Sully.
The band stretched beyond its acoustic roots with an electrified bluegrass version of the folk-blues chestnut, “Sitting on Top of the World.” There, mandolin played through a phaser evolved the song beyond its country origins. But while experimentation clearly plays a role in Junto, its obvious from watching the band that its members truly love and feel the songs they’re playing, and that there’s as much artistry going into selecting pithy (and sometimes deep cut) covers as to composing original music.
Junto closed out its first set with a trio of well-picked tributes, starting with Bobby Bare’s “I Don’t Care.” Willie Nelson’s “Bloody Mary Morning” had the bartenders faux-clogging, the song’s blue collar stomp broken by Porter’s rockstar guitar solo. And Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia on a Fast Train” proved that as the hour grew later, the music got grittier. Franck’s harmonica took on a blues edge while Blaney’s fleet-wristed drumming brought the song home.