Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Indian Tinged Blues from Harry Manx at Basement Discs

Harry Manx playing the Mohan Veena - Basement Discs - 23/4/08

The smoky warm day in Melbourne today was perfect for a walk at lunchtime down to Basement Discs to see the marvellous Harry Manx performing in store.

If you aren’t familiar with Harry Manx as an artist, he’s certainly worth seeing live. A master musician, he’s a virtual one man band playing a variety of stringed instruments (he had three with him today). Perhaps his most distinctive instrument is the remarkable Mohan Veena, a guitar/sitar hybrid, of which Harry is a master. It has an extraordinary sound.

Harry blends blues, folk music, and Hindustani classical music, creating a totally new interpretation of the aforementioned genres.

He is also a very fine songwriter and interpreter of other artists’ songs. His versions of Jimi Henrix’s Voodoo Child and Foxy Lady, not to mention Crazy Love the Van Morrison classic song are wonderful. He has a smoky, warm voice that is a pleasure to listen to and appropriate I suppose to the warm smokiness of the weather.

I’ve seen Harry Manx live several times and always take the opportunity to see him when he’s passing through these parts.


My friend and well known fantasy writer, Jeff VanderMeer was interviewed on ABC Radio today on Steampunk, the subject of a forthcoming anthology edited by Jeff and his wife Ann.

I was otherwise engaged at work when it was broadcast over the airwaves, but I intend to listen to the podcast tonight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Autumn Racing Carnival – Week 12

Weekend Hussler (as if he hadn't done so already) stamped himself a champion of the turf by thrashing a top class field in the George Ryder Stakes on Saturday. He has won six Group One races over the 2007/2008 season, matching the achievement of Kingston Town. He is now to be spelled until the spring, his connections choosing not to run him in the Doncaster Handicap next Saturday.

The Golden Slipper was won by Sebring, a lightly raced colt trained by Gai Waterhouse. He was my pick, though I was hoping Augusta Proud - who did run after all - would win or get a place. The race was run at a rattling pace and Sebring, after badly missing the start, came from behind to narrowly beat Von Costa De Hero. It was a skilful ride on the part of his jockey Glen Boss who flew in from Hong Kong especially to ride Sebring.

Tuesday Joy won the BMW defeating the eternal bridesmaid Princess Coup, who yet again was blocked for a run in the straight.

There are still a few weeks to go in the Sydney racing carnival, with next Saturday featuring the Doncaster Handicap. Apache Cat returns to racing in the TJ Smith Stakes. Top sprinter Takeover Target is also nominated to run in the TJ Smith, but I think the Cat, fresh from a spell, will be hard to beat.

As well as the Doncaster and the TJ Smith, next Saturday sees the running of two other group one races, the AJC Derby and the Sires Produce Stakes.

So there’s another exciting race day to look forward to next weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tracy McNeil & Jordie Lane make sweet music at Basement Discs

From left to right - Flora Smith, Tracy McNeil, Jordie Lane

There was another excellent mini show at Basement Discs at lunchtime today. On stage was Tracy Mc Neil a young singer songwriter from Canada and local boy, Jordie Lane. They have recently teamed up as a duo act called Fireside Bellows, though today both were promoting their individual discs, Tracy’s Room Where She Lives and Jordie’s Lover’s Ride.

These two artists were new to me and I must say I was impressed by their joint and solo performances. They both have very fine singing voices and their song writing is of a high calibre. The music is a mix of folk and alt country.

They had a string bass accompaniment and young local female artist Flora Smith provided harmony vocals.

It was not until I was making my way back to work that it dawned on me why Flora Smith looked familiar. She is the daughter of long time acquaintances of mine. Her father is Graeme Smith, academician and folklorist and her mother is Judith Brett who teaches politics at La Trobe University and is a well known political commentator.

There was an article on the Basement discs in today’s Age newspaper regarding the inaugural Record Store Day being celebrated tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Autumn Racing Carnival – Week 11

Having followed the carnival from the first Group One race of the season in February to the present, and with several more meetings to go, this autumn carnival appears to be never ending. Mostly this extended season is due to a rescheduling of the Sydney carnival from its program of past years. This is in part was caused by the equine virus crisis and the early advent of Easter.

Still, for racing fans it is a good thing having the carnival stretch from summer to early winter.

I missed posting my preview last week – no time – but there were three Group One races on the cards last Saturday. These were the South Australian Derby and the Goodwood in Adelaide, and the Rosehill Guineas in Sydney.

The results of these races were in the main unexpected with outsiders Shadoways winning the Goodwood and Dealer Principle winning the Guineas. The wonderful filly Zarita beat the boys in the Derby. She’s certainly become a potential star this autumn having won her last three starts. Another filly Grand Journey won the Western Australian Derby the weekend before last.

The coming weekend of the 19th April sees the running of the premier two year old race, the Golden Slipper, always an interesting race often with unexpected outcomes. Last year’s winner Forensics has proved her metal this autumn by winning her last three starts after being disappointing last spring.

Also on the program next Saturday is the BMW and the George Ryder Stakes in which Weekend Hussler will be trying to emulate the achievements of the mighty Kingston Town by winning 6 Group One races in a season.

Even though this race meeting will be televised I doubt I’ll have a chance to watch as Basement Discs will be celebrating International Record Store Day on Saturday and I feel obliged to attend the event for a short while at least. I can probably nick out to a nearby TAB outlet and watch the races if the event clashes with one of the races I am keen to watch.

Record Store Day is an initiative involving independent record stores around the world, to encourage people to continue buying CDs rather than downloading music. Good idea, I think, as I haven’t got an iPOD or MP3 player myself (much as I’d like one) I prefer to listen to music on a home stereo, where the quality of the music can be heard in all its intended glory.

The Basement Discs
will be hosting an extravaganza of live music with several local artists donating their time to perform a few songs. Included in the line up are Lisa Miller, Jeff Lang, Chris Wilson and Spectrum, to name a few. Check out the Basement Discs web site for more information.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson Live CD Preview

Kasey Chambers, Bill Chambers, James Gillard (obscured) Shane Nicholson

Last night I attended what must be one of the best shows I have had the good fortune to witness. The occasion was a short concert at the Corner Hotel featuring Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson performing a preview of their forthcoming joint CD Rattlin’ Bones.

I found out about this concert on Monday – it was not widely advertised, so I leapt at the chance to see these two performing together. I have listened to the title track of their new CD and really liked what I heard, and after hearing the rest of it last night I really think it will be one of the best recordings of the year.

Kasey and Shane are husband and wife with diverse musical tastes. Kasey is well known as a country singer and Shane’s music has always been more towards the rock n roll end of the spectrum. The new record takes these two into a blend of these genres and creates something new and exciting, eliciting comparisons to Buddy and Julie Miller and Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. They have created a superb rootsy album comprised of original songs either composed in partnership or individually.

Last night they had an impressive group of musicians forming a backing band. The instrumentation was acoustic with banjo, string bass, dobro, pedal steel and guitar. The sound was rich and full bodied.

We had an excellent position at the front. The Corner had tables and chairs at the front of the stage and I was early enough to grab one, so I could sit and enjoy the show in comfort.

Kasey has a very likeable stage presence. She is down to earth and friendly and she and Shane engaged in light hearted repartee during the song breaks. Shane appeared to be enjoying himself enormously and was more relaxed and amusing than I had previously seen him in his solo concerts.

Kasey of course has a lovely singing voice, effortlessly crystal clear and Shane himself is a very fine singer. The two of their voices in harmony sounded made for each other.

They performed the entire 14 tracks of the new CD in order from start to finish. It was a glorious foretaste of what to expect from Rattlin’ Bones and everyone in the crowd last night will doubtless purchase it. I have a signed copy on pre-order and can’t wait for its release on 19th April.

The show last night was filmed from start to finish so hopefully we can expect a DVD in due course.

The night ended with a lovely version of Leonard Cohen’s Halleluiah as an encore.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Situation – art imitates life (or life imitates art)

About a month ago I downloaded the online version of Jeff VanderMeer’s novella The Situation and read it. It seemed appropriate that I read it at work, here on the 25th Floor of a building housing the large bureaucracy from whom I earn my daily bread. I found The Situation to be a delightful reading experience and very true to the situation I work in every day. Jeff’s story is a surreal satire on corporate life and the people one is obliged to work with – the many betrayals and shifting alliances inherent in this type of industry. I was so impressed by The Situation I ordered a copy of the book and it arrived two weeks ago. As a physical object it’s a lovely little book with fantastic cover art by Scott Eagle.

You can order it from PS Publishing here.

There’s a great review of it on OFBlog of the Fallen here.

The following email message, which landed in my inbox last week, could almost have been written by a character in The Situation.

Dear All,

After much consideration I have decided not to attend M's function. I am writing to let you know that I would be happy to " break bread" with any of you at any time and I am not being anti-social per se but the reason for non-attendance is a deliberate snub to M.; my attempt at a protest if you like.

A lot has gone on behind the scenes regarding incidents emanating from my unpleasant encounters with L S and I hold an opinion that M has treated me very badly and unfairly. So much so that I have come to this considered position. I told M a couple of days ago that I will not be coming to his lunch.

Recently I clearly outlined my concerns to M and I requested that I wanted him to apologise to me in the presence of E D over certain matters but M is sticking to his ideas of how he perceives the world. We have diametrically opposed opinions about some certain matters.

Thankfully, M will not be able to do me any more harm once he retires. I also hope that he is not invited to the staff Christmas party this year either.

Myself, I keep a low profile here at work, and even if I have no close friends I don’t have enemies either. There are some people whom I pretend don’t exist and who do likewise to me, but in the main I get on alright with my colleagues, unlike the LS mentioned in the above email message, who had a talent for making enemies wherever she worked. I remember a staff meeting a year or so ago, where she managed to insult two fellow staff members and disgust the rest in less than 30 minutes. Normally I’m bored to death in these staff meetings, so it was certainly a memorable occasion and a more interesting meeting than I’ve before or since attended.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Autumn Racing Carnival – Week 10

There are several interesting races tomorrow, including three Group Ones, the Ranvet Stakes and Queen of the Turf Stakes in Sydney, and in Perth the Western Australian Derby.

In the Ranvet, Sirmione and Princess Coup cross paths again with old war horse Desert War and top Sydney mare Tuesday Joy also competing. It should be an interesting race as should the Queen of the Turf with Melbourne spring star Devil Moon racing second up after being disappointing last start. She’s up against some classy mares and fillies such as Forensics, Occurrence and Mimi Le Brock.

I’m not strong on form for the WA Derby, but I kind of fancy the filly Grand Journey who is aiming for a hat trick of wins.

Others in my black book racing tomorrow are Mutawaajid in the Visage Stakes, Racing To Win, Mentality and Sniper’s Bullet fighting out the Canterbury Stakes, and Musket in the Sky High Stakes.

The Sydney carnival is hotting up and I am looking forward to seeing the return of Apache Cat later this month and also seeing how Weekend Hussler goes in his next race, possibly the Ryder Stakes which Haradasun won last year, before going on to win the Doncaster Handicap.

There is news that Augusta Proud may be competing in the Golden Slipper after all. Let’s hope her connections don’t get too greedy and over race her and ruin her for the future. She’s only two years old with lots of growing still to do.

I like following horses through their careers, hopefully over several years. Sunline’s career lasted for five years and it was thrilling watching her racing through every one them. I felt depressed and deflated when she was retired. Likewise, with Makybe Diva. Still, there are potential champions emerging all the time it seems. Look at this year, for instance, with the emergence of Light Fantastic and Augusta Proud to name a few.

Another of my favourites was retired this week. Divine Madonna, one of the best milers in the country, sustained a back injury in training and has been retired to the breeding barn. She came out of nowhere two years ago to win the 2006 Emirates Stakes and was consistently good in subsequent competitions, winning a total of four Group One races. Oh well, we can look forward to her children hitting the race track in the future.