Friday, June 25, 2010

Sparkling Country Rock for a Grey Friday – Barb Waters at Basement Discs

At lunchtime today on a grey and dingy Melbourne day, I had the pleasure of seeing a performance by Barb Waters, yet another talented local singer songwriter in which Melbourne abounds.

Barb leans more towards the country music end of the Americana spectrum, so it was refreshing to hear her sing her wonderful songs at Basement Discs today, to promote her new album Buffalo Mountain Girl. The CD is worth buying just for the first song, My Brother’s First Girlfriend, but you won’t be disappointed with the rest of the record either, it’s chock a block full of attractive and beautifully written songs.

Barb Waters is originally from the country town of Myrtleford up in north East Victoria close to Mount Buffalo and the songs on her new CD are a nostalgic look at the region.

There have been comparisons to Lucinda Williams when Barb Waters is mentioned. She does have an attractive powerful voice and is an accomplished guitarist. Today she had one member of her Mother of Pearls band in attendance – Chris Altmann who played peddle steel and electric guitar. He’s a member of the local band The Vandas. Mikey Madden the other half of The Vandas duo, works behind the counter at Basement Discs.

It has been quite a few years since I last saw Barb Waters perform live, so it was good to see her again and be reminded of just how entertaining and pleasant she is in person.

Check out this You Tube of her live at Studio 22 recorded in the early 2000's

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Final Group One for the Season

From political fillies to the racing kind...

It would be fitting if the super consistent and very talented filly Melito (pictured above) were to win the final Group One race for the 2009/10 racing year.

She has her chance in the Winter Stakes this weekend.

Racing since early March in top company, she won the Group One TJ Smith against the older horses and has been consistently placed in all the races she has contested in Queensland, lately only narrowly beaten by Black Piranha in the Stradbroke Handicap. Melito has drawn the outside barrier, which will make it difficult, but is sure to be in the finish, with any luck in first place.

The Winter Stakes is a weight for age race over 1400 metres for fillies and mares. It has attracted a class field that includes some familiar names of the autumn. Besides Melito, there is Set For Fame, whose Sydney campaign was disrupted by a virus infection. She was sent to Queensland in winter and won Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes on 5 June. Her trainer Peter Moody stated that he was disappointed with that run, expecting her to win by a larger margin. She’s a very classy filly and one of the top chances.

Running her last race before being retired to the breeding barn is the Gai Waterhouse trained mare, Gold Water. She ran a ripper race in the Doomben Cup, fighting out the finish with Metal Bender only going down by a head.

Other contenders are Wealth Princess, winner of the listed Lady of the Turf Stakes back in May. She was however beaten by Set For Fame in the Dane Ripper Stakes. Beaded, and Readyor are also worthy of consideration.

The build up to the spring racing season is due to commence in a little over a month with the running of the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes on the 31st July. Can’t wait!

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the running of the Melbourne Cup, which almost ensures it will be one of the best yet. It should attract a top field and include any number of International runners including the 2007 and 2008 runners up Purple Moon and Bauer. It would be nice to see a mare win for a change. Triple Cup winner Makybe Diva was the last mare to win, but over autumn and winter we’ve seen Jessicabeel take out the Sydney Cup and Dariana win the Queensland Derby, so they will be worth following in the spring, along with Faint Perfume (currently cup favourite), and will undoubtedly contest the big events.

Aussie Politics – Australia’s First Woman Prime Minister

I certainly can’t let the momentous changes that swept through the Australian political landscape today go by without comment.

It happened very fast, the first intimations of change being mooted last night on the 7.00 o’clock news of a bid by disaffected members of the ruling Labor party to oust incumbent PM Kevin Rudd from the top seat.

This morning he went without a fight and handed the reins of power to his Deputy Julia Gillard. So we now have our first female Prime Minister. And what's more she is not a conventional female politician. She is unmarried, lives in a de facto relationship and is childless.

As far as I am concerned this is a good thing, as Julia Gillard has been admirable as Deputy PM and is an intelligent and astute politician. Also, what with the polls recently indicating a loss for Labor in the next elections, there’s now a chance we won’t have to put up with a government by the monk (Tony Abbott) and the bishop (Julie Bishop), a prospect too ghastly to imagine.

What a far cry it is from three years ago when Kevin Rudd assumed leadership of the Labor Party! He was seen as the great white hope to dislodge the Howard government, which indeed he did.

However, he has been disappointing of late and even a person such as myself, who has always supported Labor, was contemplating in the next elections, simply marking my ballot paper “none of the above”.

Here’s hoping Julia Gillard can affect a change in public opinion and policy. Even news of Kevin Rudd’s likely dethronement positively affected the British Stock Market last night (Australian time).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Warm Vibes On An Icy Day – Josh Owen Band at Basement Discs

Last week’s scheduled in-store with Zulya was cancelled owing to the performer in question coming down with the flu, so it’s been two weeks since I last tasted live music.

Melbourne today is putting on a typical winter’s day, sort of not too cold if you’re out of the wind and in the sun, but nevertheless pretty chilly. A great excuse therefore to get down to
Basement Discs at lunchtime for some funky grooves.

Josh Owen Band fit the bill perfectly with a short demonstration of tunes from their latest CD The Long Way. The music encompasses soul, funk and reggae, sung with conviction by band leader Josh Owen in his strong soulful voice. His band, including himself is a trio, with Luke Hodgson on electric bass and Jason Heerah on percussion and harmony vocals.

An enjoyable and heart warming interlude on a cold day it was too.

Find out more, and listen to his music on
Josh’s web page or My Space.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey

Over the past week or so, I’ve been reacquainting myself with the mystery novels of Josephine Tey, or the few that I have on my bookshelves.

The Franchise Affair was the one I selected first of all. I was so impressed with it I have continued to devour the rest – Brat Farrar, The Singing Sands, and currently the famous The Daughter of Time. I even went out at lunchtime today on the hunt for more, but alas the second-hand (Crime Fiction!) bookstore had none of them.

Oh how I miss the recently closed – the best second-hand bookshop in town - City Basement Books, which surely would have yielded better results!

So it looks like ABE or some such is the go if I wish to acquire more.

To cut to the chase, Josephine Tey was one of the pen names of Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scottish born playwright and author of detective novels. Originally destined for art school, she only took to writing after undergoing three years training in physical education. In all, she wrote eight mystery novels. She wrote many plays under the name of Gordon Daviot.

The website for the Richard III society has an interesting biography of her which I recommend visiting. Reading it, I was pleased to note that she was a fan of horse racing, which I strongly suspected from The Franchise Affair, where one of the characters gives a racing tip to another, based on the pedigree of the tipped horse.

Anyway, the books…


Of the three I have so far reread it is remarkable that they are all very different and not written to a formula. The Franchise Affair, based on the famous historical case of Elizabeth Canning, deals with false accusation, wherein two women, mother and daughter are accused by the innocent seeming schoolgirl Beth Kane of keeping her prisoner in their house The Franchise. They call upon the services of country solicitor Robert Blair to act for them in the matter. A wise choice, as he is convinced that they are innocent from the outset, despite the girl being able to furnish remarkably accurate details of the interior of the house.

The story follows his steps to clear the names of the Sharpe women as he undertakes an amateur detective investigation into Beth Kane’s activities over the month she is purported to have been a prisoner.

False identity is the concern of the novel Brat Farrar, wherein the title character passes himself off as the missing heir, presumed dead by suicide, Patrick Ashby, in order to inherit the fortune of the Ashby family. In doing so, he comes to realise there is a darker mystery at the heart of the identity he has taken on that he is morally obliged by conscience to solve.

A death on a train and a mysterious verse scribbled on a newspaper is the premise for The Singing Sands and features Tey’s detective hero, Alan Grant of Scotland Yard. Alan Grant appears in several of Tey’s detective novels, including The Daughter of Time.

The latter novel finds Grant laid up in hospital with a crook back and a broken leg and bored out of his mind. His friend, the actress Marta Hallard, knowing of Grant’s acuity and interest in facial characteristics, brings him a collection of portraits to occupy his mind.

He is struck by the countenance of Richard III, seeing not the callous murderer of the Princes in the Tower, but a sensitive human being. This sets him on a course of historical detective work which is carried out, with the help of friends, whilst he is convalescing in hospital.

Containing an unusual plot, it is memorable for contributing to historical research and goes some way to clearing the name of the much maligned Richard III.

What distinguishes all the above novels by Josephine Tey, is the elegance and wit of her prose and her ability to create real characters that quickly win the sympathy of the reader. As it is many years since I last read the books, I have been highly impressed by those that I’ve recently reread. Despite being written 50 to 60 years ago, Tey’s books have a freshness and compulsively readable quality that is hard to find these days. Highly recommended!.

The cover illustrations above are scans of my elderly copies of the books. I’m particularly pleased to have The Daughter of Time in a 1964 Green Penguin Crime edition, still in good nick I might add.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Queensland Oaks

I’m leaving it a bit late this week to speculate on the Group One Queensland Oaks to be run at Eagle Farm tomorrow. A race over 2400 metres, it will certainly find out the true staying fillies in the large field.

Can High Chaparral, as a sire, add to his already impressive haul this racing season with another winner? There are two High Chaparral fillies in the field who interestingly enough have the Sir Tristram/Zabeel factor as well. Fairy Oak, trained by Peter Moody is one and Utopia, trained by John Wallace (think Shoot Out) is the other. Toting the Zabeel factor too, is Absolute Joy. Her dam is non other Joie Denise, from the dominant Denise’s Joy family which includes Sunday Joy, Tuesday Joy and More Joyous. Joie Denise herself won the Queensland Oaks in 1995.

The Bart Cummings trained Dariana will probably start favourite. Sired by Redoute’s Choice there is a question mark on her ability to run the distance, though other daughters of that sire, for instance Miss Finland and Samantha Miss, both won the Victorian Oaks over  2500 metres.

Other fillies worthy of consideration are last start winners Marheta and Miss Keepsake. What with Dariana and Fairy Oak both drawing wide barriers, it’s anybody’s guess who will win, though I hope it is one of the High Chap girls.

Graceful Anna will also be racing tomorrow in the Group 2 QTC Cup (1300 metres) in open company for the first time in her career. She’s up against a class field that includes Catapulted, Stryker (who beat her last time) and the very smart Border Rebel. Here’s wishing her luck. She’s a gutsy filly and could, with any luck, win this race.
Last week, my wishful trifecta almost came off. Hot Danish blitzed the Doomben 10,000 field with a great win, and Melito , consistent as ever, ran third. Whobegotyou signalled that he is close to being back to his best, running into second place. He’s now favourite for the Stradbroke.

Half Man Half Woman – Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier at Basement Discs

On this cold, misty and dank winter’s day in Melbourne, what better than to take in some music at lunchtime at Basement Discs. As indeed I did, braving the crowds of bargain hunters in the city for the big stock take sales, to see Deborah Conway and partner Willy Zygier play songs from their new CD Half Man Half Woman at today’s in-store.

Deborah Conway is well known on the Melbourne music scene, having been in the industry for 30 plus years, most notably as the lead singer in the pub rock band Do Re Mi. In all that time I never witnessed her performing live. Seeing her live today, I regretted not doing so earlier. She has a superb voice, alternately mellow and gutsy.

The songs performed today from the new album, were a mix of slow burners and rock angst and included Take Pity on the Beast and Cul De Sac.

Willy Zygier provided sterling accompaniment playing slide guitar and mandolin, also contributing harmony vocals.

The Deborah/Willy combo was a refreshing interlude in an otherwise dull day. We were advised that the CD packaging contained a somewhat pornographic pop up of a half man, half woman, but as I did not purchase the CD, I’ll be left wondering.

Check out the
Deborah Conway/Willy Zygier website to see/hear their music.

And a big hello to Amanda at
Flop Eared Mule who was in Melbourne today and took the time to attend today’s in store. It was a pleasure to meet you in person after these years of mutual blog comments!