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[ATTENDED: October 1, 2018] The Sensational Country Blues Wonders

Evan Dando announced he would be playing a show at WFMU’s Monty Hall and it was so under-hyped that it was easy to miss.

Incidentally I love the name of this venue.  It’s funny to name it after the TV personality.  But it works because it’s on Montgomery Street.  So clever!

The show was announced with such short notice (two weeks, maybe) that I assumed there would be no opening act.  And then suddenly there was one, The Sensational Country Blues Wonders.

Right there in the name of the band was two genres of music I do not like all that much.  That didn’t bode well.

The trio (there’s normally a second guitarist apparently) got up on stage with John Warren (upright bass) wearing a porkpie hat, with the electric guitarist (either Malcolm Marsden or Jeff Sutton) wearing a beret (and looking a bit like David Crosby) and with lead singer and acoustic guitarist Gary Van Miert dressed as a real, old-fashioned country singer.

After a deliberate pause, Van Miert stepped up to the mic and in a real old-fashioned cowboy/preacher voice, he proclaimed “We are The Sensational Country Blues Wonders.”  They proceeded to play ten fanatics old-fashioned sounding country/blues/gospel songs.

And after two songs I was agreeing that they were sensational.  There’s no way that I should enjoy a band with this name playing this kind of music  But they sounded fantastic and had great stage presence.

Their bio says

“The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!” are a band that replicates the original instrumental lineup of acoustic rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar and upright acoustic bass used on the first rock and roll records recorded by Elvis Presley at Sun Studio. The “Wonders” are a group that has it’s own unique interpretation of American Roots Music – classic Country music from the fifties and sixties, down home spiritual songs from the Golden Age of Gospel, and time-honored Blues numbers that go back to the greats hailing from Mississippi and Chicago. We combine all these elements to create a “one of a kind” musical experience! 

The first song “Where is the Road That Leads Home” was so spot-on I as was sure that it was an old song but apparently all of their songs are original.  Van Miert’s voice was just perfect for this style of song–sharp and direct with a bit of a twang.

The second song “Mean Woman Blues” was a little questionable at this moment in history, except that the end of each chorus was “she may even be as mean as me.”

What was so interesting about the music was that it sounded like country and blues at the same time. The solos were all very bluesy and he played solos almost through the whole song, even though the sonsg proper sounded like country songs.

The humor continued with “My Baby Stabbed Me with a Steak Knife” and the delightfully profane “I’m Afraid of Every Goddam Thing

A little later in the set Van Miert again complained “We are The Sensational Country Blues Wonders.  And don’y you forget it.”

As they got near the end of the set I was flagging a little (that’s a lot of counrty for me, although it was actually some of the more bluesy songs that I was most bored by (“Baby Blues” is pretty dull)) but when their song “Second Fiddle segued into “Folsom Prison Blues” I perked right up.

Their version was great.  And although he didn’t sound anything like Johnny Cash, he had the perfect voice for the song.

Before playing the final song, Van Miert said in his normal speaking voice (which hilariously sounded totally New York/New Jersey (they are based in jersey City) that he was really grateful that we came out to see them. And then he was right back in character for the final song.

After the show, he handed out Sensational Country Blues Wonders pins to anyone who wanted one (which I did).

It was delightfully fun surprise.

SETLIST

The Road That Leads Home
Mean Woman Blues
My Baby Stabbed Me with a Steak Knife
I’m Afraid of Every Goddam Thing
I Can Hear the Music Play
Baby Blues
I Won’t Change Anything
Kansas City
Second Fiddle/Folsom Prison Blues
One Night

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