Thursday, March 29, 2012

Autumn Racing Carnival continues…

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Foxwedge after winning the William Reid Stakes – it was night time so photo is a bit murky

I haven’t had much time to write about racing, but I have certainly not lost my interest in it. I didn’t have time to post about last week’s feature races, but did attend the last night meeting for the season at Moonee Valley last Friday to witness the running of the William Reid Stakes. Hay List was the short priced favourite, but he was overtaken just before the post by three year old colt Foxwedge. Hay List had been suffering from a bruised heel most of the week, but had been passed as fit to run, so it is possible that he was still affected by that injury as he didn’t show his characteristic blistering sprint. 

In Sydney last Saturday, More Joyous made a welcome return to the track with a win in the Group 2 Canterbury Stakes, and it was also pleasing to see Metal Bender resume after a long injury induced break, running a solid third place behind More Joyous.

The feature Group One races were exciting nail biters, both with very close finishes, with Manighar & Rangirangdoo fighting out the finish of the Ranvet Stakes. Manighar won by a nose, and Shoot Out ran a close third.  And long shot, Ofcourseican narrowly won the Coolmore Classic from Secret Admirer and King’s Rose.

Blue Diamond Stakes winner Samaready remains unbeaten, winning her debut race, the Group Two Reisling Stakes, in Sydney last weekend. She’s hot favourite for the Golden Slipper and is the most likely of all the aspirants, to take out that race. If she does, it will be the second year in a row for the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper double to be won by the same horse. This was accomplished by Sepoy last year.

Well, that was last week.

This coming Saturday, Rosehill hosts the feature Group One Rosehill Guineas. It’s a race for three year old stayers over 2000 metres and has an intriguing field. Super filly Mosheen has beaten the boys in the other recent Guineas (Australian & Randwick), but her place this time as the sole female contestant, is taken by top New Zealand filly Silent Achiever, who has won five out of seven races, the last three in succession, and has never been unplaced. She is the logical favourite, however she has drawn a wide barrier, and is racing for the first time in Australia. Locals who may threaten her are Doctor Doom, who is a Group One winner over the distance, albeit at Randwick, Laser Hawk who ran third in the Randwick Guineas, Said Com who ran second on that occasion and Strike The Stars who ran second to Mosheen in the Australian Guineas. The Peter Moody trained Highly Recommended is also a good chance, having recently won the Alister Clark Stakes and fellow Melbourne runner Proliferate who has a slight claims. Possibly the best competition for Silent Achiever will come from fellow New Zealanders Ocean Park and Rock ‘N’ Pop, and if he returns to form, 2011 Victoria Derby winner Sangster.

Black Caviar’s little half brother All Too Hard is having his third race on Saturday in the Group Two Pago Pago Stakes (1200 metres). Can he remain unbeaten? He certainly looks as if he will keep his record intact, judging by the way he’s won his previous races. It’s too early to call him a star of the turf, but he is worth following.

The Group Two Challenge Stakes (1100 metres) sees Rain Affair back on his home turf. He didn’t handle the straight at Flemington, when contesting the Newmarket Handicap, but  he should be back in the winners stall in this race. That is if he can beat the highly regarded Bel Sprinter who was waylaid by a minor injury to his leg and was out of action for a month. Also in the picture is the speedy filly Satin Shoes, who narrowly missed winning the Euclase Stakes in Adelaide on Labour Day and Elite Falls, the other class filly in the race, who ran second to Woorim in the Oakleigh Plate.

On Saturday evening, the eyes & ears of Aussie racing fans will be focussing on the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan. Several Australian horses are competing in various races;  Sepoy in the Golden Shaheen (1200 metres) against the likes of Rocket Man, Singapore’s top sprinter, Helmet in the UAE Derby (1900 metres) and dual Cox Plate winner So You Think  in the Dubai World Cup (2000 metres).  Here’s wishing them all the best of luck.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Queen of the Minor Key - Eilen Jewell Rocks!

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Eilen Jewell live at The Corner Hotel – 22 March 2012

A fabulous night was had by all on Thursday night at the Corner Hotel, where Eilen Jewell  performed her first show in Australia on her current tour.

There were two support acts, Sweet Jean, who are Melbourne singer -songwriters,  Sime Nugent and Alice Keath, who play soulful folk music, and Cold Heart, who were a sort of honky tonk band – chalk and cheese in fact.

It was shortly after 10.00pm that the curtains swept back to reveal Eilen’s band, sans Eilen, playing an introduction that sounded like the opening notes of her song Warning Signs. Then the leading lady swept onto the stage, and picking up her guitar, launched into the first track on the Queen of the Minor Key CD, I Remember You, a smoky, sultry song with delicious dark lyrics that go like this:

“I remember you
You were full of broken bones
I tried to bring you cigarettes
You said just leave me alone
I remember you
You were locked in a padded room
I tried to teach you solitaire
You just hollered at the moon”

She upped the tempo with Warning Signs which, with Jerry Miller’s guitar licks, sounds like an old 50s rock number.   

Eilen then paused to introduce the next song, Bang, Bang, Bang, a tongue in cheek ditty about Cupid, stating that rather than being a force for good, he is actually a sociopath, who cares not who his arrows sting. In Eilen’s song he fires a gun. The sociopath motif was played out over the evening, when somehow the logic involving sociopaths, become synonymous for women, as in some women are sociopaths, ergo all women are sociopaths. Eilen was tickled by this idea as were the audience and it was applied again to the Loretta Lynn song Deep As Your Pocket which followed Bang, Bang, Bang.

Like her name, Eilen Jewell was in sparkling form, and her fabulous band comprising Jerry Miller on guitar, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass, and Jason Beek on drums and vocal harmonies, matched her bright performance with great accompaniments.

I think this show was even better than the one I saw at the East Brunswick Club two years ago.

We were treated to 18 dazzling songs, drawn from across her four records, plus one – Twelve Gates To The City - from the gospel group Sacred Shakers, a side project in which she plays with another group of musicians that include some of her current band members.

She ended her set with a great rendition of her version of the old Johnny Kidd song, Shakin’ All Over, where the band performed an extended jam that went on for quite a while.

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Eilen Jewell live at the Basement Discs – Friday 23 March 2012

And of course I went to see her again at the Basement Discs on Friday. It was a full-house, a rare occurrence for the shop. Fortunately I arrived early, so was able to peg out my regular spot, before the hordes descended into the basement.

It was of course another delightful show, albeit much shorter in length, but with a few different songs. And I did get my CDs and a poster I purchased at the Corner show, signed.

Set List at Corner Hotel

  1. I Remember You
  2. Warning Signs
  3. Bang Bang Bang
  4. Big As Your Pocket (Loretta Lynn)
  5. Heartache Boulevard
  6. High Shelf Booze
  7. Too Hot To Sleep
  8. Reckless
  9. Restless (Carl Perkins)
  10. Gotta Get Right
  11. Twelve Gates To The City (Trad)
  12. Santa Fe
  13. Where They Never Say Your Name
  14. Sea Of Tears
  15. Rain Roll In
  16. Fist City (Loretta Lynn)
  17. Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd)


  1. Queen Of The Minor Key

Set List at Basement Discs

  1. Bang, Bang, Bang
  2. Reckless
  3. Santa Fe
  4. Dusty Boxcar Wall (Eric Andersen)
  5. Queen Of The Minor Key
  6. If You Catch Me Stealing

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Real Deal – Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen

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Chris Hillman & Herb Pederson live at Caravan Music Club

From the first song of Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen’s set, I felt cast back in time, back to heady days of my youth in the 1960s and ‘70s. It was that inimitable sound of the times that was emanating from the stage - sweet country rock redolent with superb harmonies and masterly musicianship.

They started with a couple of  Desert Rose Band songs, first the appropriately called Desert Rose, followed by She Don’t Love Nobody, a song written by John Hiatt.  Turn Turn Turn, the famous Pete Seeger song, which was a big hit for The Byrds in 1965, was next. The lyrics are drawn from The Book of Ecclesiastes, so Chris Hillman informed us.

Herb Pedersen was associated with The Dillards, a legendary bluegrass band, and introduced the next song as one of their standards – Close The Door Lightly.

And so the concert proceeded with Chris & Herb ranging through their back catalogue, many of the songs being familiar to those of us who grew up with the songs on our record players or on the radio. For instance the fabulous Sin City written by Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons  for The Flying Burrito Brothers influential record Gilded Palace of Sin, Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man, which contains the wonderful line “In the jingle jangle morning…” and  Bells of Rhymney another Pete Seeger song. I hadn’t heard many of these songs for decades, but as is the case with music, it’s amazing how you can still remember the words.

They played 20 songs in all, including the encore, and finished their main set with So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.

It was a great show, by two legends of folk/rock, country/rock fame. They proved that the genuine sound of the era from which they came, cannot be imitated. It was the real thing.

The Caravan Music Club is a great venue – it has an old fashioned ambience and is part of the Oakleigh RSL  It’s a pity it’s so far from home, because it’s one of the best venues in Melbourne.

Set List

  1. Desert Rose
  2. She Don’t Love Nobody
  3. Turn, Turn, Turn
  4. Close The Door Lightly
  5. If I Could Only Win Your Love
  6. Sin City
  7. Bells of Rhymney
  8. Devil In Disguise
  9. Nevertheless I’m In Love With You
  10. Hey Boys
  11. Rank Stranger
  12. Old Crossroads
  13. Mr Tambourine Man
  14. Old Train
  15. Rangers Command
  16. Doesn’t Mean Much Anymore
  17. Eight Miles High
  18. Wait A Minute
  19. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star


  1. Heaven’s Lullaby

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sydney Racing Carnival kicks off with the Randwick Guineas

Manawanui – favourite for the Randwick Guineas – photo by Paul Rovere from The Age

There is no scheduled race meeting in Melbourne tomorrow, though there is a rather nice card at Moonee Valley tonight, which I shan’t be considering here.

I’ll be concentrating instead on the feature race at Randwick in Sydney tomorrow, the Group One Randwick Guineas, a race for three year olds over 1600 metres.  Manawanui is the current favourite, and deservedly so, as he technically won his last race, the Hobartville Stakes, only to lose out to an upheld protest. His biggest rival is  Mosheen, the only filly in the race, but what a super filly she is. She thrashed the boys in the Australian Guineas at her last outing and could well do it again. I’m really torn between the two of them and am reluctant to pick one above the other. 

However, it may not all go the favourites’ way as Hobartville Stakes eventual winner Wild And Proud from the Gai Waterhouse stable, could put up a fight, as might his unbeaten stable mate Lazer Hawk. Also worth consideration is Strike The Stars who has good, though not winning, form against Mosheen, running second to her in the Australian Guineas, albeit three lengths behind her.

The Peter Moody runner Moment of Change with the doughty Luke Nolen in the saddle is another in with a chance. He finished third behind Manawanui & Wild And Proud in the Hobartville. And then there’s  Ocean Park who has come from New Zealand with good form and Doctor Doom who won the Group One Spring Champion Stakes back in October last year.  Whatever eventuates, it looks a must watch race.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More Soul – two diverse in store performances at Basement Discs

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This week Basement Discs hosted two very different, nevertheless very talented young artists from the USA. 

The first of these was Krystle Warren (pictured above) who is touring Australia for the first time, and performed a moving and unusual short set, in store on Wednesday.  Her music is minimalist, but her voice and songs more than make up for it, her songs being masterful tales of love gained and lost, and her voice being soulful and expressive . She has been compared to Joni Mitchell in the way she she uses her voice, but I thought she sounded a bit like Joan Armatrading.

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Today the engaging and genial Ben Sollee entertained the lunchtime crowd at Basement Discs with a charming performance, showcasing his expertise on his instrument of choice, the cello.

He hails from Kentucky and grew up in a musical family, adopting the cello when he was in high school - he fell in love with the weird sounds it can make, so he explained. He trained in classical music but was influenced by the jazz, blues and celtic music of his family. This explains his unusual approach to playing the cello, which covers all the aforementioned genres and then some.

He is also a very gifted song writer and has a pleasant singing voice - a sweet tenor.

Next up at Basement Discs is the wonderful Eilen Jewell on Friday 23rd March. I’ll be seeing her the night before at the Corner Hotel, but still wouldn’t miss her intimate in store for quids.

This Saturday, I am for the first time going to the Caravan Music Club in Oakleigh, rather a long trek for us in the north of the city, but purported to be a great venue. It should be worth the effort as Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen are playing.  Chris Hillman is one of the pioneers of country rock, and played in such bands as The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Flemington Super Saturday – Newmarket Hcp & Australian Cup
Americain returns this weekend in the Australian Cup

It’s almost the end of the Melbourne Autumn racing carnival, and Flemington Racecourse hosts two excellent Group One races on Saturday, for the penultimate meeting of the season. The William Reid Stakes on Friday evening of 23rd March is the last Group One of Melbourne’s autumn racing, and then the focus shifts interstate to Sydney.

You can tell Black Caviar is still on holidays, as the Group One Newmarket Handicap, a sprint over 1200 metres, has attracted an almost full field of 23 runners. Hay List gets his chance to prove he is the second best sprinter in the world in this race. He is not without competition however, with Sydney sprinter Rain Affair, who has won his last nine races, running for the first time in Melbourne and sure to be competitive. As will Woorim, who won the Oakleigh Plate at long odds just a fortnight ago. King’s Rose is making her first appearance since Spring, and never runs a bad race, so too Albert The Fat who beat her in the Emirates Stakes back then. Beaded cannot be overlooked either as she returned to racing after nearly a year off with a fine second to Steps In Time back in February. So, lots of chances in what will be a fascinating race. 

The Australian Cup (2000 metres) has 4 imported and 4 locally bred stayers in the field. Americain makes a welcome return to the track in this race. He is now in the care of David Hayes, so is having his first start for the stable. He is of course one of the top chances in the race, but will have to contend with the likes of  Illo, Manighar and Glass Harmonium who recently contested the Peter Young Stakes and finished in the above order after Lucas Cranach who has been scratched due to injury. Southern Speed ran fifth on that occasion, but she has excuses as she apparently didn’t cope well with the intense heat that day. It will be much cooler next Saturday, and the track will most likely be rated dead, so she has to be considered as one of the top chances.  Dear old Efficient may be running his last race, as his owner has stated that if Efficient doesn’t show improvement, he will be retired. 

There are other races of interest at Flemington other than the two feature races. Black Caviar’s little half brother All Too Hard, is contesting the Group Two Sire’s Produce Stakes against a field of classy two year olds that include Blue Diamond runners, Jimando, Rusambo, Mama’s Choice etc. It will be worth watching to see how he performs.

Soggy Warwick Farm in Sydney hosts the other Group One race of the day. It’s the Chipping Norton Stakes (1600 metres) and has the exciting prospect of Shoot Out and Pinker Pinker going head to head. Shoot Out ran second to Rain Affair in his last start, so is due for a win, and Pinker Pinker is running second up after being narrowly defeated by King Mufhasa in the Futurity Stakes and is purported to have an excellent second up record in terms of wins. Main dangers to the two main chances are Herculian Prince, Danleigh, and Sacred Choice, always a good bet if the track is heavy, which it is certain to be after heavy rain fell in Sydney this week.

The races will be on free to air TV this weekend, so that takes care of my Saturday afternoon.  This time last year I was at Port Fairy Folk Festival, but I’m not attending it this year.

Update Sunday

Hay List narrowly won the Newmarket from Buffering with colt Foxwedge running third. It was a grand effort on Hay List’s part carrying a top weight of 58.5.

The Australian Cup was also a close call with Manighar pipping Southern Speed at the post. Americain ran third after running too far back to be in contention in the finish, though another 200 metres would have had him winning.

I was delighted to see Shoot Out win the Group One Chipping Norton Stakes. He certainly looked back to his best, winning by two lengths from stable mate Danleigh. 

And All Too Hard was sensational winning the Sires Produce Stakes; could be a star like his big sister Black Caviar, judging by that run.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ryan Adams at the Regent Theatre


You wouldn’t think that one man with two guitars, a collection of harmonicas and  a piano, could keep a full house theatre quiet and spellbound for two hours, but last night Ryan Adams did just that.

It was a quite wonderful concert, beautiful and amazing and damn near perfect as concerts go.

Photos were not permitted, so I have had to use the promo photo to illustrate this post. Prior to the start of Ryan’s set, a voice with a strong Scottish accent, rather amusingly, threatened hellfire and damnation to any who even thought to record, photograph or in anyway disrupt the show with annoying devices. 

And thus it was that the capacity audience at the beautiful Regent Theatre was prepared for a night of superlative music. And it delivered in spades

But first I must mention the opening set of Jason Isbell.  I have had the good fortune to see him perform previously when he opened for Justin Townes Earle several years ago, so I knew we in for a quality sweetener. He opened with Tour of Duty, a powerful song about a soldier returning from a final tour of duty, and his vain hopes for the normalcy of civilian life, then followed that with Going It Alone before harking back to his days with the Drive By Truckers and singing his version of one of their hits Danko/ManuelGoddamn Lonely Love was the standout on his set list, as was his cover of Richard Thompson’s  Keep Your Distance.  His song about his father, Outfit was later the basis for a joke in one of Ryan Adams lighter moments.  Jason however, is a dynamic performer himself and a scintillating songwriter, so his set, of eight songs in all, was much appreciated by the early arrivals. The rest didn’t know what they were missing.

Jason’s set kicked off at 8.00 pm and lasted approximately 30 minutes, after which there was a short break, so the audience could go off and grab a drink at the bar etc. Alcohol was forbidden in the auditorium.

So it was about 9.00 pm when Ryan Adams stepped onto the stage to a rousing welcome. The first song of 26, was the beautiful Oh My Sweet Carolina, a perfect opener to set the mood for the rest of the show. This was followed by Ashes & Fire, the title track on his latest album, which has been widely acclaimed as a return to form by the mercurial songwriter.

Much to my delight If I am A Stranger was next. In fact the entire set list was a wonderful selection of favourite songs. Highlights for me were Rescue Blues – an awesome version - as some member of the audience called out to which Ryan quipped “Thanks Dad”, Sylvia Plath, a song I love for it’s amazing lyrics, Firecracker, The Hardest Part and the perennial favourite Come Pick Me Up, but truth to tell it was hard to single out any particular song, they were all fantastic. And I really loved Ryan’s tribute to his pussycat, an amusing and perfectly executed ditty called Mr Cat. It had the audience in stitches.

Yes, Ryan Adams was very funny when he wasn’t being serious, and he does take his music very seriously indeed, even if he deprecates it half jokingly.

What was remarkable about seeing Ryan Adams perform solo, was that he can carry a show by himself with ease and grace. The fact that he is a supremely gifted songwriter, singer and musician is made patent in this context. With just Ryan, his guitar and beautiful expressive voice, the songs glow with new meaning and you are entranced by his artistic genius.

More on the voice – Ryan Adams voice has to be one of the best voices in contemporary music. He can sing anything and give the songs he sings depth and meaning. His voice cuts you to the heart, seduces you with its sincerity, and astounds you with its amazing range. He can go from a whisper to the sweetest croon, to a passionate howl in space of one song, The Hardest Part for instance.

At the end of the main show, which finished with Come Pick Me Up, the audience rose as one to accord the man a standing ovation. This happens very rarely in the shows I have been to, but Ryan certainly deserved all the love and reverence accorded him last night. They rose again after the three song encore as Ryan took a bow for the last time.

It was one of,  dare I say, the best show I have ever had the good fortune to witness, up there or even surpassing Leonard Cohen and Lyle Lovett and all the other great artists I’ve seen live.

Set Lists

Jason Isbell set:
Tour Of Duty
Go It Alone
Alabama Pines
Goddamn Lonely Love
Keep Your Distance [cover]
Daisy Mae

Ryan Adams Set:
Oh My Sweet Carolina
Ashes and Fire
If I Am A Stranger
Dirty Rain
My Winding Wheel
The Rescue Blues
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Do I Wait
Everybody Knows
Dear Chicago
Sylvia Plath
Let It Ride
English Girls Approximately
Chains of Love
16 Days
The Hardest Part
Lucky Now
Mr Cat
New York, New York
[improv: "My car is broke and what I'm wearing is an outfit" – apropos Jason Isbell’s song Outfit – very funny]
Come Pick Me Up
Holy Diver (Dio cover)
When Will You Come Back Home