The Sensational Country Blues Wonders, the musical moniker of singer/guitarist Gary Van Miert, will become just a little more sensational with the Sept. 2 releases of “The Adventures of a Psychedelic Cowboy.”
Long a mainstay of the North Hudson music scene, Van Miert seemed ubiquitous before the COVID pandemic, either performing or just showing up to support fellow musicians at both traditional venues and any hole-in-the-wall that could be persuaded to host live music . With a fluid lineup of band members, the Sensational Country Blues Wonders played much more than just country and blues, finding inspiration in everything from modern Americana to traditional gospel.
The new album expands that palette with forays in lysergically inspired ’60s pop-rock.
“’The Adventures of a Psychedelic Cowboy’ is an album of deeply introspective, trippy, whimsical and spiritual songs, influenced by the psychedelic art and music of the ’60s, such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Peter Max and Salvador Dali,” Van Miert explained. “Other influences include traditional country music, Lewis Carroll, and British music hall filtered through the Kinks and Beatles.”
With Van Miert’s sturdy, melodic voice as the album’s anchor, this freewheeling electicism makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and cohesive listening experience.
“This album is my ‘Revolver’ and ‘Exile on Main St.’ all rolled into one,” Van Miert continued. “It’s got the experimental psychedelic elements the Beatles started incorporating into their music at that time mixed with the gospel, country and other Americana elements the Rolling Stones utilized on ‘Exile.’”
The mix of psychedelia, gospel and Americana on the album happened naturally as the songs came together, Van Miert noted.
“For the last few years, I’ve been performing in churches, playing the old, traditional gospel songs during services,” Van Miert said. “So I wanted to try my hand at writing some gospel songs as well. And I also wanted to stick with the country sound that was successful on my last album because the radio stations like those.”
Van Miert described some of what people will hear on the new collection:
“’I’m Beginning to Live In the Light’ is an old-school country gospel number, contemplating the idea of a heavenly light shining down and giving us hope and salvation,” he said. “’The Psychedelic Cowboy Song’ is a mind-bending tune about the joys of exploring the cosmos without limitations. Musically, it has a swirling chamber-pop-meets-psychedelia feel to it, enabling the listener to feel like they are floating in space.”
The opening track, “There’s a Hole in the Fabric of My Reality,” immediately introduces listeners to Van Miert’s new tack.
“It’s a kaleidoscopic number about having a breakthrough in your perception of the universe and a sense of wonder about everything,” he sai. “Musically, this song features sitar, mellotron, and theremin to create the aural equivalent of an altered state of reality.
“I only wish my parents were still around,” Van Miert added. “They would have loved this record.”
When Van Miert set out to make his last album — 2020’s “The World Will Break You Heart” — the COVID lockdown made traditional studio recording impractical (as well as dangerous). So, Van Miert recorded home demos and emailed them to studio musicians in Nashville, who recorded the instrumental tracks. Van Miert added the vocals at home, a process that worked unexpectedly well.
“After I finished that last album, I started writing again and I wrote 10 songs in about a six-month period,” Van Miert said. “And then I demoed them and sent them to Nashville, then recorded my vocals and mixed and mastered everything myself. I like the process. It’s more relaxing to record your vocals at home as opposed to going into a studio. I prefer to work that way.”
While the Sensational Country Blues Wonders often delights fans with cover versions of traditional and gospel songs on stage, this album only features Van Miert compositions.
“I don’t see the point of recording other people’s songs,” Van Miert said. “Covers are good when you’re playing live and need to stretch out your set.” (A recent gig at a local restaurant required him to play for three hours!)
“When I make a record, I want to record my own songs,” he stated.
The Sensational Country Blues Wonders have performed with different lineups over the years. Currently, the band consists of Van Miert on vocals and rhythm guitar, John Warren on upright bass, and Carlos Haase on lead guitar. Van Miert also performs solo with just his acoustic guitar, as he did recently at one of Nick Ciavetta’s “Friggin’ Fabulous Showcases” at Cafe Peanut.
“The Adventures of a Psychedelic Cowboy” will be released on Friday, Sept. 2, on CD and at thesesensationalcountryblueswonders.bandcamp.com. It will also be available to stream on all major platforms. For more information and upcoming shows, visit www.garyvanmiert.com.
CAFE PEANUT GOES WEEKLY
Speaking of Friggin’ Fabulous Productions, Nick Ciavatta announced that his irregular Cafe Peanut showcases will take place every Saturday in September.
The cafe is located on Newark Avenue across from the Brennan Courthouse; the free shows begin at 1 pm
This isn’t an open mic, but a curated bill with different guests each week. Performers range from the old-timey Great American Songbook standards of Beeman & Bannon to funk and soul songwriter Gerald Lucas, to promising young talent like twentysomething singer/songwriter James Margolis.
Check out Jim Testa’s Facebook page, facebook.com/Constant-Listener-Jim-Testa-On-Hudson-Music-108591071738628. He can also be reached at email@example.com.