Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Americana Rose Melts Hearts at the Toff

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Last night I had the pleasure of seeing up and coming young singer songwriter, Caitlin Rose performing at the Toff In Town. Hailing from Nashville, Caitlin is the daughter of songwriter Liz Rose, and has certainly followed in her mother’s footsteps writing clever contemporary country songs. I really like her way with words; she’s sassy and somewhat self deprecatory, as exampled in her song Learnin’ to Ride where the chorus goes like this:
” Learning to ride, oh, learning to ride
I get knocked down when I'm learning to ride
A few broken bones for a place to hide
I get knocked down when I'm learning to ride.”

The show at the Toff was the last on Caitlin’s short first tour of Australia. She came as a support for The Felice Brothers, but did a few side shows on her own.

The support act last night was the fabulous Melbourne band Little John. They performed a sizzling, passionate set that almost upstaged the feature act.

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They sang a selection of songs from their self titled album and, as always, impressed with their wondrous male choir harmonies, and eerie otherworldly musical arrangements.

Caitlin opened her set with Coming Up, following that with Learning To Ride and Spare Me, all from her debut CD Own Side Now. She explained that she didn’t know that many songs and didn’t know how she was going to fill an hour, having only to play for half an hour while supporting The Felice Brothers.

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She coped alright, ably accompanied by her long time guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal steel player Spencer Cullum Jr. In fact she managed to get through fourteen songs in all, most of them her own composition, with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s That’s Alright.

Caitlin Rose’s voice has been described a cross between Patsy Cline and Iris Dement, but I thought when initially playing Own Side Now, that with the backing vocals of Skylar Wilson on the CD, the two of their voices in harmony reminded me strongly of the McGarrigle Sisters. Whatever, it is quite engaging and idiosyncratic.

There’s a freshness and rawness to her sound, no doubt due to her lack of experience, but Caitlin has been hyped to be the next big thing in Alt Country. Those few who attended her show last night would certainly agree that she shows enormous promise, I look forward to seeing her again in the future and am curious to hear her next album whenever that eventuates.

Set List

  1. Coming Up
  2. Learnin’ To Ride
  3. Spare Me
  4. New York
  5. Own Side Now
  6. For The Rabbits
  7. That’s Alright (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  8. Shanghai Cigarettes
  9. Sinful Wishing Well
  10. Answer In One Of These Bottles
  11. New song (untitled)
  12. Faithless Love
  13. Things Change
  14. Marie Rosie (according to the set list I picked up from the stage)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – Sydney Cup

RIP Hot Danish – a sad loss to Australian racing

The Autumn carnival winds up this Saturday with the  running of the 3200 metre Sydney Cup and three other Group One races at Randwick – the Champagne Stakes for two year olds, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes for middle distance/staying types and the All Aged Stakes a sprint over 1400 metres. A nice variety of races in fact.

For once I can watch them on the home TV, as for the last few Saturdays I have been out and about fulfilling social obligations, and racing coverage has been hard to find.

Last week’s Sydney meeting was turned upside down by the weather and the state of the track , though not really unusual for Sydney during the autumn, was rated heavy going. This resulted in long shot mudlarks taking out the major events. Sacred Choice (8/1) who in similar conditions during the spring in Melbourne defeated Typhoon Tracy, won the Doncaster Mile. More Joyous failed to fire and ended way back in the field. The Oaks was taken out by the runaway Absolutely (30/1) with the game Shamrocker relegated to second place and Pinker Pinker running  third. Atomic Force (10/1) was the winner of the Galaxy.

I sincerely hope that the weather is kind this weekend, though it’s still a tough call on most of the Group One races with any number of runners having claims.  Let us consider first the Champagne Stakes run over 1600 metres.  Sires Produce Stakes winner Helmet looks the top pick for this, though second placer Uate may turn the tables on him this time, considering the extra 200 metres to be run. Consistent filly Pane In The Glass is also worthy of consideration as is the Bart Cummings trained Salade.

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a WFA competition over 2000 metres, has a decent field of tried an true old stayers like Zavite, Cedarburg, Vision And Power (if he gets a run) and Wall Street as well as the talented three year old Retrieve and mystery English horse My Kingdom Of Fife, a last start winner. Sacred Choice is backing up in this and could win again if the track is rain affected.

Run over the same distance as the Melbourne Cup, though not having the same prestige, the Sydney Cup is nonetheless a staying handicap of historical import. It was won by the mare Jessicabeel last year after earlier winning the Chairman’s Handicap , so I give the Gai Waterhouse trained mare Once Were Wild a very good chance to win this year, having followed a similar path to Jessicabeel  by winning the Chairman’s Handicap  two weeks ago.  The current favourite is C’est La Guerre who rarely wins but does like the Sydney way of going, followed by stable mates Mourayan and Muir who recently won the Adelaide Cup over the distance.   French bred  horse Laristan (a lovely grey beast) is also fancied in some quarters, as is Hawk Island.

The All Aged Stakes will be run as a sort of memorial to Hot Danish who sadly was put down last Sunday due to an incurable and crippling leg infection. A favourite in Sydney this bonny, almost black mare was around for years gamely running with the best. She scored her first Group One victory in the All Aged Stakes last year.

The field assembled this year is first class. Hay List the second best sprinter in Australia and possibly the world, will start favourite. As it’s over 1400 metres, not his pet distance of 1200 metres, there may be a chance for one of the others to catch him. Rangirandoo, for instance , who recently won the George Ryder Stakes, old favourite Heart of Dreams who has returned to racing this autumn in fine form, and Shoot Out who was disappointing in the T J Smith, but may show marked improvement second up. Melito is sure to figure somewhere in the finish, recently running second to More Joyous in the Queen of the Turf and Triple Honour who scored third place behind Black Caviar and Hay List in the TJ Smith is also a chance.

Though the autumn carnival will be over in Sydney after this weekend, the Adelaide and Queensland winter season will keep the ball rolling for another month or so. The resumption of Black Caviar in the BTC  Cup on 14th May is a highly anticipated event.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – The Doncaster Mile

More Joyous

The heady excitement of first class racing continues this Saturday at Randwick with three Group One events, the feature race being the famous Doncaster Mile, which stars that other marvellous Australian mare, More Joyous. She is gunning for her 13th consecutive win on a Sydney track and her 5th win in succession for the season. The Doncaster Mile is by no means an easy race to win. She is top weight, so one or other of the lighter weighted  contenders could spoil her party. There’s the consistent Love Conquers All, Danleigh, Aloha, Triple Elegance and stable mate Pureness all in with a chance. But More Joyous being the freakish beast she is, barring extreme misfortune, should bolt in.

The AJC Australian Oaks (2400 metres) also looks a doozy of a race with AJC Derby winner Shamrocker out to make history by winning the Derby/Oaks double. If she has recovered from her gruelling win in the Derby there is a very good probability of her succeeding.  Others in contention are Victorian Oaks winner Brazilian Pulse, Pinker Pinker, 100/1  Stormqueen winner Mirjulisa Lass, Fibrillation and Crafty Irna.

The third Group One of the day is the Galaxy Stakes a sprint over 1100 metres. Last year Ortensia was the winner, though later a prohibited drug was found in her system and she was disqualified. She’s back again for a second go at it, though it looks a much harder race this time, judging by the quality of the field. Swift Alliance looks the one to beat and others like Sister Madly, Solar Charged, Avenue and News Alert are all talented sprinters and therefore in with a chance.

As well as being an excellent day for racing, it is also International Independent Record Store Day. 


Basement Discs  will be celebrating the occasion with a great line up of local artists performing in store throughout the day - JEFF LANG, CHARLES JENKINS, THE WOLFGRAMM SISTERS, SEAN McMAHON'S WESTERN UNION, ABBIE CARDWELL, CHRIS WILSON, SARAH CARROLL, CASH SAVAGE, THE SPOILS (DUO) and LITTLE JOHN.  They will also be having a music quiz and other such fun stuff with the likes Dave Graney and Rebecca Barnard undertaking the MC duties. 

I’ll be dropping in during the afternoon,  to snap some pictures and  take in the vibes.

Several other independent  record stores in  Melbourne will be celebrating as well, so  check  out your favourite record store tomorrow and give your support to a worthy cause.  They’d be a sad loss to the cultural landscape were they to close.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cyndi Lauper – Entertainer Extraordinaire

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It was a concert totally out of left field from my usual penchant for roots type performers, but the Cyndi Lauper extravaganza at The Palais Theatre on Friday evening was great. Vive La Difference!

The Palais Theatre is one of Melbourne’s premier venues. It’s an elegant old lady of a theatre in St Kilda, the present building existing since 1927, originally as picture theatre then later as a concert venue. It’s next door to the even more elderly Luna Park, which as you can see from the photo I snapped is looking rather the worse for wear and quite sinister with only one eye lit and the grin shining as a grimace.

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As I was unable to get a seat in the stalls, I ended up in Row E in the Lounge area upstairs. Photos from the distance would not be suitable for my Canon G10, so I decided to take my old Panasonic LZ1 which has served me well in the past as far as distance shots were concerned, it having a larger zoom capacity. The below photo turned out quite well, considering. (click to enlarge)

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Anyway, back to the concert, the opening act was former Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan. She wasn’t bad at all. She has a fabulous very powerful and expressive voice and was simply accompanied by a single guitarist.

Cyndi Lauper is of course a famous pop princess, well known for her pop songs Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Time After Time and True Colours. She sang them all, but also spent a majority of the show showcasing her latest CD, a blues album called Memphis Blues,

She was accompanied by an excellent band comprising a guitarist, a bass player, a pianist and organist as well as a drummer. Also playing in the band was Charlie Musselwhite, the famous harmonica ace. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the names of the rest of the band, who no doubt are well known session players and a search on Google was unable to enlighten me.

You couldn’t call Cyndi Lauper a dull performer. She is extremely energetic, prancing from one end of the stage to the other, falling to her knees, jumping down to the front stalls and directing her band flamboyantly. Not bad for lady in her late 50s.

It was a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining show and Cyndi’s numerous fans engaged with her whole heartedly, singing along to the iconic pop songs and according her a standing ovation at the end.

I was delighted that she included the song I’m Gonna Be Strong which I first heard and loved many years ago on her 1980 Blue Angel LP, of which I still retain a copy.

Set List (found on the web)

    1. Just Your Fool (Little Walter cover)
    2. Shattered Dreams (Lowell Fulson cover)
    3. She Bop
    4. How Blue Can You Get? (Johnny Moore's Three Blazers cover)
    5. Early in the Mornin' (Louis Jordan cover)
    6. All Through the Night (Jules Shear cover)
    7. Lead Me On (Bobby "Blue" Bland cover)
    8. Cross Road Blues (Robert Johnson cover)
    9. Down Don't Bother Me (Albert King cover)
    10. Don't Cry No More (Bobby "Blue" Bland cover)
    11. The Goonies 'R' Good Enough
    12. Change of Heart
    13. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
    14. Shine
    15. I'm Gonna Be Strong (Frankie Laine cover)
    16. Time After Time
    17. Mother Earth (Memphis Slim cover)
    18. True Colors (with Casey Donovan)

Friday, April 08, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – Derby Day

Black Caviar

Yet another fine day of racing is scheduled tomorrow at Randwick, with three super Group One competitions on the cards.

The feature race is the AJC Australian Derby, but the star attraction of the day is Black Caviar having her first start in Sydney in the Group One TJ Smith Stakes. Now that she has been acknowledged in world rankings as the best sprinter in the world, she has become the pin up girl of the Australian turf and has the media in a frenzy. This is excellent for the Australian racing industry, as larger than usual crowds attend race meets where she is to run, all hoping to be part of the rare phenomenon that is Black Caviar.

Naturally she is expected to win the TJ Smith just as convincingly as she’s won all 11 of her races, despite the quite classy field assembled. Vying for second place will be Hay List, Crystal Lily (who has run second to the champ in her last two runs) and Shoot Out. Yes, Shoot Out is back after a long spell following his gruelling spring campaign. A favourite of mine, it’s good to see him back on the track.

The Derby (2400 metres) will by no means be an anti climax to the TJ Smith. Potential star of the turf, New Zealand colt Jimmy Choux will start firm favourite and deservedly so. The main opposition comes from Retrieve who ran second to Jimmy Choux in the Rosehill Guineas and sole filly Shamrocker who won the Australian Guineas and ran third in the Rosehill Guineas. The Bart Cummings colt I Think I Do could be a chance as could Anacheeva, though he has not shown any of the brilliance that won him the Caulfield Guineas in the spring.

Sandwiched between the TJ Smith and the Derby is the Group One Sires Produce Stakes, a race over 1400 metres for two year olds. It’s a sort of consolation prize for those didn’t qualify for the Golden Slipper. Smart Missile who did qualify for the Slipper, but was dramatically scratched at the barrier, was originally the hot favourite for this, being the only horse to have beaten Sepoy, but alas he has been scratched from the Sires Produce as well. Sepoy of course won the Golden Slipper achieving the rare Blue Diamond. Golden Slipper double. Whether Smart Missile would have made a difference to the Slipper result will forever remain a mystery.

But to get back to the likely victor of the Sires Produce Stakes, I rather fancy the Bart Cummings trained Do You Think, a very lightly raced up and comer who could become Bart’s next star ; a replacement for the similarly named So You Think, who will be having his first start in the UK shortly. Others worthy of consideration are well credentialed colts Helmet and Uate and fillies Elite Falls, Pane In The Glass and Shared Reflections.

However, nothing is certain in racing, as was exhibited last Saturday with long shot winners causing upsets in the BMW and the Vinery Stud Stakes, though More Joyous continued her run of wins in the Queen of the Turf, and of course Sepoy won the Slipper. Rangirandoo won the George Ryder Stakes, so not a surprise to see him back to his best. After all he won the Doncaster last year.

Update Saturday evening

Well, Black Caviar continued her winning streak in the TJ Smith, though at the closing stages of the race hearts were in mouths as Hay List dashed several lengths clear in the front, and it almost seemed that Black Caviar would be beaten. Sure she had to fight this time but she overtook him in a trice and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths - another stunning performance from the best racehorse in the world.

I also should mention Shamrocker, the only filly in the Derby field, who won the event after fighting out the the finish with Retrieve with Anacheeva filling third spot.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – Golden Slipper Day

Sepoy winning the Blue Diamond Stakes

Alas I didn’t have time last week to write on the races that featured the Rosehill Guineas and two fillies/mares Group One races in Adelaide, not to mention the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night, starring Black Caviar where she didn’t disappoint winning her eleventh race and fourth Group One. I watched/listened to the races on Saturday anyway and I was pleased to see New Zealand raider Jimmy Choux take out the Guineas and Lights of Heaven win the Australasian Oaks.

This Saturday, as mooted in the title, is Golden Slipper day at Rosehill in Sydney. Five Group One races including the Slipper are on the cards. There’s also the Group One WATC Derby at Ascot in Western Australia, so a BIG day of racing to look forward to.

The Group One Queen of the Turf Stakes for fillies and mares over 1500 metres, is the first to be run. A small field of seven runners will be competing , including super mare More Joyous. She’s obviously the one to beat, and it won’t be easy. The best of the others is Melito, followed by the Peter Moody trained Set For Fame , Jersey Lily and Montana Flyer.

The Vinery Stud Stakes is a 2000 metre race for 3 year old fillies. Victorian Oaks winner Brazilian Pulse, who resumed with a win two weeks ago, is the obvious pick for this. Her main danger is Do Ra Mi another from the Peter Moody stable. Throw in Melbourne filly Pinker Pinker and Fibrillation as good chances for a place if not a win.

The Group One races continue with The BMW, a 2400 WFA race for stayers. Veteran Zipping who caused a boilover in the Ranvet Stakes recently, can’t be totally written off, especially if the track is on the slow side. Descarado who came second on that occasion is a top chance as is Linton who ran second to Shocking in the Australian Cup and is a genuine contender though having his first run in Sydney. Maluckyday has been a tad disappointing since resuming after his sterling second in the 2010 Melbourne Cup, running fourth in his two lead up races, but he may suddenly click at the distance and redeem his reputation with a win. This race has an excellent field so is sure to be interesting.

As is the George Ryder Stakes another WFA over 1500 metres. The classy field contains group one winners like Theseo, Danleigh, Rangirangdoo, King Mufhasa, Wall Street, Aloha and Ilovethiscity, the latter two three year olds winning the 2011 Coolmore Classic and the Randwick Guineas respectively. Triple Elegance has great form as well, as does the eternal bridesmaid Dao Dao. It’s an intriguing race where any one of the above could be victorious.

The feature race of the day is the Golden Slipper the richest two year old race in the world. A bog track caused upsets to the two hot favourites Sepoy and Satin Shoes a fortnight ago when they were both beaten. The other hot contender Karuta Queen was also beaten in her last start, leaving the Slipper picture less than crystal clear. It really all depends on the track on Saturday who is the likely winner. If the track is good, Sepoy has to be the one to beat if you were to judge him by his Blue Diamond run. And Satin Shoes and Karuta Queen have to be the best of the fillies, though the vanquishers of Sepoy (Smart Missile) and Satin Shoes (Elite Falls) also have to be in with a chance, along with a couple of smokies from the Bart Cummings stable Salade, Empress Rock and Do You Think, who have all won their one and only starts. As I always say, it’s a two year old race and anything can happen and probably will.

The WATC Derby (2400 metres) is of interest due to the face off between top WA colt Playing God and top WA filly Dreamaway competing against each other for the first time. Haven’t a clue about the rest of the field, but will be interested to see if one of the two above can win.