Thursday, November 27, 2008

Long Tall Tennessean – Justin Townes Earle plays Basement Discs

Justin Townes Earle - Basement Discs - 27/11/08

God, I’ve been spoilt with fine music this week, and today was no exception with the amazing Justin Townes Earle playing an in store at Basement Discs at lunchtime today.

Justin Townes Earle is the 26 year old son of Steve Earle and he is in the process of touring Australia for the first time, promoting his debut CD The Good Life.

Justin, however, didn’t play any of the songs off that album today, saying we could listen to the album. The songs he sang were all new and will be on his forthcoming sophomore disc Midnight at the Movies scheduled for release in March next year. Except perhaps one, which he admitted was finished just this morning at the airport. The Basement Discs audience were the privileged first to hear it.

As a performer Justin Townes Earle has an extraordinary stage presence, a kind of insouciant natural born charm that expresses itself with airy self confidence.

He’s a bean pole of a guy, surely six and half feet at least, and very photogenic. An energetic performer, he roamed all over the stage and loomed over the mike, wildly strumming his guitar. He was stunningly good and has a powerful voice that occasionally sounds like his father as a young man. His music would be classified (if you were into making classifications) as country rock, swing whatever.

There was a good crowd there today, all the usual suspects and then some. I’d say they were all as blown away by Justin Townes Earle as I was.

I am glad that I will get the chance to see him again next Sunday at the Toff in Town.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Edward Whittemore Calendar for 2009

As is my occasional wont, I have created a calendar dedicated to the books of Edward Whittemore for 2009. It's been a few years since I last did a calendar, and this one is my best effort yet.

Here are some sample pages (click for larger image)

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On each page you get two images, one, either a book cover or a photo of Edward Whittemore, and in the background, an image appropriate to the featured book or to the Jerusalem Quartet.

There is also a quote for each month.

Anyway, it is available for download in pdf format from the Jerusalem Dreaming website.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Mellencamp Concert - A Spectacular Night's Entertainment

It's freezing cold in Melbourne today, back to winter with a vengeance, but I have a warm glow, recollecting last night's wonderful concert at the Rod Laver Arena.

The front row seats are obviously the best place to be at this enormous venue, so I felt cosily at home in my seat in row H, eight rows from the stage. I had an excellent view of the stage and was able to get some reasonably good photos of the event.

The three performances were all superlative, and started with a short set from Shane Nicholson, initially solo, then with his father in law Bill Chambers providing accompaniment on steel and whatever else he was playing. He was out of my range of view.

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Shane Nicholson - Rod Laver Arena - 21/11/08

Shane mostly played songs from his new Familiar Ghosts album, which was fine with me, as I love it.

After a short break Sheryl Crow took to the stage. She was fantastic! Her act was gutsy, lively and thoroughly enjoyable rock 'n roll. She was accompanied by a big band which comprised a drummer, another percussionist, an ace lead guitar, a bass guitar, another guitar player, a keyboard and two backup singers. Understandably the sound was big and satisfying loud. It thrilled my rock child soul. It was the first time I've seen Sheryl Crow perform live, and hopefully not the last. I'd definitely go and see her play again.

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Sheryl Crow - Rod Laver Arena - 21/11/08

The same goes for John Mellencamp. His act, on top of the others was the icing on the cake of a wonderful evening.

Being the archetypical rock musician he put on a great act, irresistibly foot tapping and body swaying stuff.

I love rock 'n roll played loud and hard, and John Mellencamp delivered in spades. It has an amazing effect on me - a sort of exhilaration infuses me and I get carried away to a happy place watching and listening to the music.

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John Mellencamp - Rod Laver Arena - 21/11/08

This is first time John Mellancamp has played in Australia for fifteen years, but he obviously had fans galore. Everyone sang along to the songs, and even though I have not listened to his early songs for many years, they all came back to me as he sang them.

He played a well spaced mix of old and newer stuff, both hard rocking and slow ballads. It included songs like Small Town, Jack & Diane and a few from his latest album Life, Death, Love & Freedom.

I emerged from the arena in a happy daze and even though I had to stand in queue for a taxi for at least half an hour, it was worth the effort.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today at Basement Discs – the Fabulous Fireside Bellows

Andy Baylor, Tracy McNeil & Jordie Lane - Basement Discs 21/11/08

It was a very special show at the Basement Discs at lunchtime today. Featuring the combined talents of Jordie Lane and Tracy McNeil, and performing as Fireside Bellows, this young duo is sensationally good. Sounding like a down under version of Gillian Welch they entertained the small audience with songs from their brand new CD No Time to Die. Andy Baylor, local multi instrumental maestro was present as well adding fiddle and mandolin to their guitars as accompaniment.

Jordie Lane is the son of well known Melbourne comedian Denise Scott, and is a very talented young singer songwriter. He has a gorgeous voice, a clear sweet tenor that is a pleasure to hear. Tracy McNeil hails from Canada and is also supremely talented. Her voice is a deepish alto so the harmonies between the two are quite sublime.

I first saw these artists
perform back in April when they were in store at Basement Discs promoting their individual CDs, Tracy’s Room Where She Lives, and Jordie’s Lover’s Ride and I was very impressed with them then. Today they surpassed that show with a moving and very lovely show.

I fully intend to purchase a copy of No Time To Die CD. I had no spare cash for it today, but I am mightily tempted to go to the CD Launch at Northcote Social Club on Sunday afternoon.

Check out their
My Space page and give them a listen.

In other music news today, I noticed in today’s Age Entertainment Guide that Ryan Adams and the Cardinals are touring Australia and New Zealand in January 2009. I can’t miss that!
And tonight is the John Mellencamp concert - will report back on that tomorrow or Sunday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Carnival Is Over - a review of the 2008 Spring Racing Season

This is a bit after the fact, but better late than never.

Remember back in July when I was so optimistic for my virtual Super Stable? It has been a spring racing season with many reversals and upsets, thus has been constantly interesting and unpredictable.

Last year’s season was of course marred by the EI (Equine Influenza) virus, which precluded horses from interstate competing in any of the major events in the Melbourne racing calendar.

This year was a completely different story with Sydney runners taking out quite a few of the Group races.

As for my super stable, well it didn’t do too well at all, despite all its early promise.

So how did they fare?

Weekend Hussler – His connections were perhaps too ambitious and overestimated his ability to take out the longer distance races. Early in the season he was narrowly beaten in the Liston Stakes by Light Fantastic, then won both the Memsie and the Underwood Stakes. He looked like he couldn’t be beaten, then unaccountably failed in the Turnbull Stakes , before proving that he couldn’t stay in the Caulfield Cup. There are some racing commentators who opine that he should have skipped the Caulfield Cup and run in the Cox Plate, which he may well have won, considering that he had twice thrashed the Cox Plate winner, Maldivian, in the aforementioned races.

Light Fantastic – great things were expected from this young gelding. He returned to Spring racing with an unbeaten record and the hearts of racing fans were beating in keen anticipation to him racing against the Hussler. He did win the first round, but disappointed from then on failing to perform up to expectation. It was subsequently discovered that he had stomach ulcers, so he was retired for the rest of the season.

Triple Honour – like Light Fantastic, he won his first race of the spring, then after being narrowly defeated by Gallant Tess in the Chelmsford Stakes, was found to be lame and also retired for the spring.

Augusta Proud – Another young horse of whom great things were expected, despite her failure in the Golden Slipper. She only managed to place once this spring, then was reported injured and retired for the rest of the season.

Dorabella – Managed to last out the season without injury. Managed to run a place a few times, but didn’t earn my stable much money.

Forensics – Very lightly raced throughout the spring, but proved her class by winning the Group One Empire Rose Stakes.

Sugar Babe – A similar story to many of the above, she performed really well early in the season, then was spelled for the rest of it with an injury.

Tuesday Joy – She was my substitute when Light Fantastic was spelled. I was lucky enough to see her run on Manikato Stakes day at Moonee Valley where she won. Shortly afterwards, she was banned from racing after bleeding during the Turnbull Stakes.

Time Thief - A very promising colt, lightly raced, who was runner up in the Caulfield Guineas to Whobegotyou. He’s one to look out for in the autumn.

Samantha Miss – one of the few consistent stars of the spring. It sure will be interesting following her career from now on. She appears to have the potential to be another Miss Finland or, dare I speculate, Sunline.

Princess Coup – Despite coming to Australia with two excellent New Zealand Group One wins under her belt, the Princess failed to be competitive this time in Australia – disappointing is the word that springs to mind.

Cup HorsesEfficient, Mad Rush & Septimus – no sooner had I added Efficient to my stable, than he was out with an injury. Mad Rush looked so promising for the two cups, but failed to gain a place in either. And as for Septimus, the less said the better.

By the end of the carnival my stable was a shambles and ended up 72nd out of 93. Oh well, better luck next year.

So that was the spring racing carnival for 2008.

Not to worry, the 2009 autumn carnival is only a few months away and there is a lot to look forward to, like the return of Weekend Hussler and also Light Fantastic in the shorter races. Also I’m keen to see if Whobegotyou lives up to his hype in the autumn. And no doubt more potential super star race horses may just be over the horizon. One I am curious about is Coubertin, the little half brother of Elvestroem and Haradasun, who may be debuting shortly.

There is a bit of action at Ascot in Western Australia over the next few weekends, where Apache Cat will be out to redeem himself after his shock loss on Emirates Stakes day, in a clash with globe trotting super sprinter Takeover Target so the carnival sort of continues in the west for a short time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Familiar Ghosts - Shane Nicholson


I rushed out today to purchase the brand new Shane Nicholson CD Familiar Ghosts and have just listened to it for the first time on my computer. It's fabulously good!

Shane has created a mini masterpiece, beautifully written songs, catchy tunes and his voice has never sounded better. He produced this CD all by himself and plays all the instruments. It has a beguiling raw acoustic sound, quite different from his usual painstakingly produced pop records.

Shane has finally gained recognition for his talents in his collaboration with his wife Kasey Chambers on the Aria winning record Rattlin' Bones. A lot of people who saw the couple perform together for the first time, were very taken with Shane's performance and voice, having ignored him previously.

I have been a fan of Shane's music since seeing him open for Kasey in a concert in 2003. I have seen him perform live solo twice since and twice with Kasey. It is hard to believe that I saw him perform live to a meagre audience of about 20 people not so long ago. He is now a potential super star.

I get to see him again next Friday when he will be opening for John Mellencamp and Sheryl Crow at the Rod Laver Arena. I am really looking forward to this concert as I have become very fond of John Mellencamp's latest CD Life, Death, Love and Freedom, a wonderfully moody and gloomy collection of songs. It sounds pretty drastic, but is in fact as life affirming as it gets. I have a penchant for sad songs, along with many other people. Perhaps it is the emotional impact of such songs that so tug on the heartstrings in such a positive way.

Shane will also be launching Familiar Ghosts at a local venue in Fitzroy on Saturday, but I doubt if I will make that show, much as I would like to attend.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Last day of the Melbourne Racing Carnival - Emirates Stakes Day

Tomorrow represents the official end of the Spring Racing Carnival. There are two Group One races on the program - the Emirates Stakes over 1600 metres and the Patinack Farm VRC Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Apache Cat, Melbourne's favourite horse, will be making his only appearance this spring in the sprint, before going overseas to compete in Hong Kong. Unless things have changed drastically with the Cat's will to win, he should easily account for the rest of the field, the main dangers being Sydney horse Triple Honour, back after sustaining an injury early in the spring, Sunburnt Land, a recent Melbourne winner and classy sprinting mare Bel Mer.

The Emirates is a wide open contest of evenly matched runners. Last year rank outsider Tears I Cry won it, but this time it is possible that the favourite will win. The favourite is currently Sea Battle, running on his home track for in form trainer Mark Kavanagh. The Gai Waterhouse trained Bank Robber is a threat as is former top galloper Sniper's Bullet, along with All Silent, a winner last start at this track, also likely to finish well.

The Oaks was won by the remarkable Samantha Miss, who proved she was a class above the rest of the field and also proved that she can stay. She won easily by several lengths, Miss Scarlatti coming second and the Bart Cummings Allez Wonder a close third.

Steve Earle at the Forum

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Steve Earle - The Forum - 6 November 2008

Steve Earle gave generously of his time last night in a great show at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne city.

Performing solo for the most part, Steve ran through a fine selection of his back catalogue which included several of my personal favourites - Goodbye and Ellis Unit One, a powerful and affecting anti death penalty song, to name a few.

Interestingly enough, there were no songs from his two "protest" albums Jerusalem and The Revolution Starts Now. Steve and wife Allison Moorer both expressed their delight at the result of the American election, so perhaps Steve feels it is time to lay his hammer down, though we were encouraged to sing our hearts out when he sang his Pete Seeger tribute song, Steve's Hammer.

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Allison performed a short set to open the evening's entertainment. Unfortunately I missed half of it, being obliged to hang around outside waiting for a friend to turn up in order to give her a ticket. Allison mostly sang cover songs which included Patti Smith's Dancing Barefoot. She also contributed to Steve's act, performing the duet Days Aren't Long Enough with him, and providing backing vocals on several songs from the Washington Square Serenade album. Songs from this album formed the bulk of the second half of Steve's set, often accompanied by a sound effects/disc jockey guy at a sound desk in the background. I thought it worked quite well adding depth to the sound, though Steve's solo accompaniment was anything but subdued.

Steve revealed that he was working on a new album, a tribute to his old friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt. The record will consist of all TVZ songs, and he sang a very good version of Pancho & Lefty during the encore as an example.

An excellent show all round and I was thankful that for once I could see Steve Earle in a seated venue, up close.

The set list for those interested is below

  1. Steve's Last Ramble
  2. Devil's Right Hand
  3. My Old Friend The Blues
  4. Some Day
  5. Taney Town
  6. Goodbye
  7. Tom Ames' Prayer
  8. South Nashville Blues
  9. Ellis Unit One
  10. Tennessee Blues
  11. Jericho Road
  12. CCKMP
  13. Transcendental Blues
  14. Sparkle And Shine
  15. Days Aren't Long Enough
  16. Down Here Below
  17. City of Immigrants
  18. Oxycontin Blues
  19. Galway Girl
  20. Steve's Hammer
  21. Satellite Radio
  22. Way Down In The Hole


  1. Guitar Town
  2. Pancho & Lefty
  3. Copperhead Road

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cup Day - Party, party, party


Viewed after winning the 2008 Melbourne Cup

What can one say after witnessing one of the most unusual Melbourne Cups in history. The tactics of Irish Trainer Aiden O'Brien fairly backfired, after Septimus and his stablemates, Honolulu & Allessandro Volta ran their legs off in the initial stages of the race and at one stage were several lengths in front of the rest of the field. However, when they turned for home entering the straight they were easily over taken by those coming from behind and ended up at the tail of the field. It was a real thrill to see Viewed win, despite the fact my money was on Bauer who was beaten by the shortest margin possible into second place.

And Bart Cummings winning his 12th Melbourne Cup was heartwarming as well. We all sat on the edges of our seats to watch Bart's reaction to the win, wondering which wonderful understatement he would come up with. He's well known as master of understatement and this time all he said was "That's good, it was a nice win" though he was beaming as he said it, and a little teary eyed.

We spent the day at a Melbourne Cup party with friends - good food, fine ale, excellent company, and high spirits.

As is traditional at this cup day party we photographed everyone wearing the pith helmet, used for the drawing the of the sweep.

Young Sam posing as a reprobate cubist.

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Dennis, the winner of the sweep (1st & 2nd prize!) displaying his wealth.

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Tony aka "Lucky", who up until this year has won the sweep, expressing himself here in a creative fashion.

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Andrew, a fellow racing enthusiast.

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His wife Luana

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Luana's mum Anna

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Ali, who backed Viewed, looking apprehensive - not sure about this pith helmet gig.

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Bernie having a good time as usual.

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Nani & Robert - down for the day from the country.

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Paul, overshadowed, but cheerful all the same.

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Brent looking thoughtful - or is he?

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Another Paul posing as an intrepid whatever

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And finally the remarkable Cheryl wearing her racing outfit

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It's not every day that you meet a person like Cheryl. She was amazing, very funny with a razor sharp wit. She gave a captive audience a rundown of her day at the races and won us all over in a flash with her lurid descriptions of the race day crowds. She's a dentist from the Gold Coast, Bernie's son's girlfriend, down from Queensland for the Spring Racing carnival. She and Dan (Bernie's son) had been partying since last Friday and were showing no signs of slowing down that I could see. A rare treat was Cheryl - I do hope I get to meet her again.


Tomorrow the carnival continues with the Crown Oaks - a race for three year old fillys over 2500 metres.

I am very interested to see how Samantha Miss performs. She is deservedly the favourite, and if she wins will be one of very few favourites to be successful this spring.

Also on the cards tomorrow is the Steve Earle concert at The Forum theatre. I am looking forward to that enormously and interested to hear his reaction to the outcome of the American Presidential Elections. Steve Earle is well known for his leftist views so no doubt he'll be in excellent mood for the show, not that he is a temperamental artist. He always puts on a good show.

I'm delighted, as are many others, with Barack Obama's victory. It seems to bring hope to the world again - a light at the end of the very dark tunnel we've been in since 9/11.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival - The Melbourne Cup

So finally we've come to the BIG one, the Melbourne Cup, a race over 3200 metres or a two miles in old parlance and the most important race on the Australian Racing calendar. In Melbourne we even get a holiday for it, and the nation stops for the running of the race.

The good oil? I'm afraid the Melbourne Cup has to be the hardest race to pick the winner so I am not going to give you any guarantees here.

There are so many factors to choose from, complicated by the fact that a third of the field is from Europe and we have, except in a few cases, not seen them in action.

There are those that say that Septimus is best stayer in Europe, but can he handle the hustle and bustle of an Australian race? Sure he has the best European jockey in Johnny Murtagh, but our Aussie jockeys know the turf so to speak, and will be all out to stymie Septimus' chances. Of course he has several of his stablemates to set the pace, but whose to say that Aussie & NZ horses can't take advantage of this as well.

It is a complaint in racing circles that Australia no longer has any good stayers. New Zealand continues to breed stayers and several are in the cup, most notably Nom de Jeu and C'est La Guerre (funny how they've both got French names). Boundless who races in Sunline's colours is another, and the rank outsider Prize Lady, who actually has been proven over the distance.

Actually, even though I would love to see an Aussie horse take out the cup, I don't fancy them at all, except perhaps for Viewed and Moatize, both trained by master trainer Bart Cummings who has won the Melbourne Cup eleven times and hopes to win a few more before he dies.

So my leanings, on form, are towards the Europeans, in particular the two we have witnessed running here - Mad Rush and Bauer.

Other than the form, which is not always right - witness the Derby result - one basically has to rely on personal choice, through whatever means - pin sticking, hat drawing, astrology etc. For those astrologically minded, I have drawn up a horoscope for the cup tomorrow, but it has not proved all that enlightening other than indicating a winner from overseas.

Last year, half an hour before the race I had a flash of inspiration regarding Efficient, simply by noticing the answer to a clue in a crossword, and correctly identifying it as an omen bet. The words in the answer were "iron horse".

The winner? Your guess is as good as mine.

You might find the following from the Racing & Sports website interesting, despite the fact that I found a lot of the conclusions reached in the article spurious.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Derby Day - Post Mortem

Claire Lindop victorious in the Derby - photo from ABC Net
It turned out to be a very interesting day's racing as expected. History was made as Claire Lindop became the first female jockey to ride a Derby winner, cleverly guiding the 100/1 chance, Rebel Raider, to a very easy win. As I said in my last post the Derby often results in surprising winners. Whobegotyou was left behind, virtually pushed aside by Rebel Raider as he stormed past him and took the lead. Whobe couldn't keep up, but managed to hang on for second spot.

I take back everything I said about Gai Waterhouse's horses not doing well in Melbourne. Her horses in the Coolmore Stud Stakes (Northern Meteor) and the Mackinnon (Theseo) both won quite convincingly. Even old Bart Cummings managed to pull a winner out of the hat with Moatize triumphing in the Saab Quality Stakes. Moatize's win qualifies him for the Melbourne Cup and Bart has engaged the services of the remarkable Claire Lindop as his rider. It would be wonderful if Claire rides him to victory thus breaking more records, by becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.

Princess Coup disappointed again, never being in the picture as far as the Mackinnon Stakes goes, coming ninth. Forensics however, class mare as she is, was back in the Group One circle, winning the Myer Classic.

The cup field has been announced - 24 runners will be competing. I'll be giving it quite a deal of thought before I hazard a guess at the winner.