Robson’s perfect panache

FEWpeople, I believe, have matched the passion, persistence, panache and pursuit of perfection of Murray Robson in his 47 years in Hunter wine.
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Murray, who died aged 85 on July 26, was ever the innovator, renowned for his exemplary wines with their hand-signatured labels. He was a three-time “founding father” of what are now the prestigious Davis family Briar Ridge and Pepper Tree operations and the Agnew group’s Audrey Wilkinson brand.

He was the first Hunter winegrower to plant roses at the end of vine rows as an early indicator of disease and the first to build vineyard cottage accommodation.

In 1969, as a teetotaller and a 10-year partner in the exclusive Double Bay menswear Squire Shop, he came to the Hunter in a syndicate of 20 Sydney business and professional men that bought the remnants of the Wilkinson family’s historic Oakdale vineyard and winery in De Beyers Rd, reviving the vines and launching the Audrey Wilkinson brand.

Enchanted by the wine country, Murray quit the Oakdale group in 1971 and he and his Squire Shop partners bought land in Mount View Rd, Mount View. There Murray built a guest cottage and, deciding it would be nice to see vines, in 1972 began planting a vineyard.

Initially called Squire Vineyard, it had its inaugural vintage in 1975 and promptly won a Brisbane Wine Show chardonnay gold medal. Totally hooked on wine, Murray sold out of the Squire Shop, took ownership of Mount View – renaming it Murray Robson Wines and making it synonymous with prized, hand-made wines of immaculate quality.

Heartache, however, hit with receivership in 1987 and the vineyard and winery were renamed Briar Ridge and bought by geologist-turned-vigneron Dr John Davis.

Ousted from Mount View, Murray in 1990 re-established Murray Robson Wines at Halls Rd and Oakdale-Audrey Wilkinson, taking former chairman of the Fairfax media group, James Fairfax, as an equity partner.In 1994 Murray sold his stake to James Fairfax, keeping ownership of his brand and preparing its third incarnation by buying eight hectares of Old North Rd, Rothbury, land. There he and wife Lynley built a home, winery and vineyard and in 1997 relaunched Murray Robson wines. The property was sold in 2000, but Murray was kept busy with wine exports, judging at the 2005-2006 North West Wine Summit in Atlanta and advising on the Peppertree vineyard upgrade.

Just before his death he was planning an on-line wine venture called Robson Store House.

A taste of Nashville, Aussie style

A taste of Nashville, Aussie style Clare Bowen at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. July 10, 2017.
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Clare Bowen at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. July 10, 2017. Brandon Robert Young at right.

Clare Bowen at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. July 10, 2017.

Clare Bowen at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. July 10, 2017.

Clare Bowen at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. July 10, 2017.

Clare Bowen at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. July 10, 2017.

TweetFacebookNashville, saved from deathlast year by a financial bailout from CMT network, the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville, has cultivated an international fanbase thatloves the lives of characters in the country music soap opera.

Enter Clare Bowen, an Australian actor who plays Scarlett O’Connor on the show. The lithesome 33-year-old spends the off-season from filming the show touring the world as a singer.

She boundedonto the stage at the Civic as a spritely fairy, barefoot with feathers in her hair and so many stories to tell and songs to sing. Filling the stalls of the Civic, her audience was thoroughly engaged, locked in for close contact.

Bowen didnot disappoint. She mixes it up:songs from the show, a few of her own, a fiercesome medley of country classics and some tunes by her leading man (and fiance) Brandon Robert Young, who’s five feet away from her all night long.

Bowen had the luxury of a full band, including lead guitarist (and Australian) Oliver Thorpe and keyboard player (and Australian) Daren Sirbough, who both got in some tasty licks.

Young was outstanding on vocals. While Bowen voiced her love for him several times on stage, it clear to all there was much to like about his vocal talent. His only solowas possibly the best song of the night.

My biggest criticism would have to be the poor sound mix on a handful ofsongs: the wall of “Nashville sound” overwhelmed Bowen’s delicatevoice too many times, most noticably on Ave’s Song and Doors & Corridors.

Bowen’s voice has plenty of range, absolutely shining on Black Roses, a highlight of the night, as well as This Town.

It was really the combination of her life storytelling and songs that connected the crowd. And hers truly is a story of defying the odds, beating cancer as a child, and succeeding in the competitive world of American show business.

How can you be untouched by a singer who tells the best piece of advice her mama ever told her was “don’t let nobody kick dust on your sparkles”.

The encore was quick and to the point, finishing the night with The Sound of Love and A Life That’s Good.

ATM card skim warning

Scammers abound. Photo: Getty ImagesATM users have been warned to stay vigilant and protect their details after unconfirmed reports of skimming devices found on cash machines.
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Weekend Facebook posts alleged two devices had been discovered on automatic teller machines at the ANZ and Commonwealth Bank sites in Sturt St, Ballarat, but neither police nor banks had received reports of unauthorised withdrawals or customer losses late yesterday.

“While we are not aware of any skimming activity at this location, ANZ ATMs are equipped with anti-skimming features and we will be monitoring for suspicious card activity,” an ANZ spokesman said.

The Commonwealth Bank also investigated but found no record of illegal activity.

“We can confirm there was no skimming device placed on the CBA ATM in Sturt Street, Ballarat,” a spokesperson said.

“Security of our customers’ banking details is a top priority.”

Most commonly, skimming machines read and record the magnetic strip of a card when placed through a false slot on the ATM, and a small camera records the keystrokes of the customer entering their PIN.

Criminals then remove the devices and download the data which can be used to make unauthorised transactions on a customer’s account.

Most devices are highly sophisticated and difficult for the untrained eye to detect, but covering your PIN number when entering it on the keypad is one of the easiest ways to prevent your account being hacked as both inputs are needed for criminals to access an account.

Representatives of both banks said scams and illegal activity could occur from time to time, but assured customers they were covered with full reimbursement of funds taken in unauthorised transactions.

“ANZ will cover any losses for our customers who are victims of fraud, including card skimming, provided they have not contributed to the fraud in any way,” the ANZ spokesman said.

The Commonwealth Bank advised ensuring no one could see you entering your PIN when using the ATM.

“To protect your PIN details, cover your hand when entering your PIN at an ATM and bediscreet when withdrawing cash.”

Checking your bank account and credit card statements for transactions you cannot explain, and reporting them to your bank, is also key to halting credit card fraud.

The Courier, Ballarat

Mojo back and funky

NEW DIRECTION: Mojo Juju has collaborated with Newcastle producer Jamieson Shaw on her new single Think Twice.ONE-TIME Newcastle musician Mojo Juju has never been afraid of testing new musical frontiers.
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She’s done everything from punk and cabaret with her rotating Novocastrian outfit The Snake Oil Merchants to jazz, swamp blues and soul through her two-album solo career.

The Melbourne-based Juju has taken another radical turn, teaming up with Novocastrian producer Jamieson Shaw, for a funky dance number,Think Twice.

Shaw has been in hot demand since working as senior music editor on Baz Luhrmann’s ill-fated Netflix series, The Get Down.

Only a small sample of the single has been released, but Think Twice shows Juju embracing back beats and a more contemporary pop vibe. Think Twice will be released on August 1, followed by her third album in 2018.

To celebrate the new single Juju is doing her first national tour in a year and she performs at her old stomping ground, the Cambridge Hotel, on August 25.

BRIGHT PRAISE BIG WRAP: Brightness has received a rave review from US music site Pitchfork.

NEWCASTLE multi-instrumentalist Alex Knight, aka Brightness, could potentially break into the massive American indie market after receiving a rave album review from highly-respected US music site Pitchfork this week.

Knight’s firstalbumTeething received a 7.4 rating out of 10 and reviewerShaad D’Souza wrote,“It’s a dry, beautiful debut that pushes beyond ’90s indie rock trappings and into rougher, more interesting terrain.”

Knight said he was“in high spirits” following the review. However, it might be more than his spirits that soar following the glowing praise.

Pitchfork is the world’s most popular online indie music-focused publication and boasts a daily readership of240,000.

END FOR BENFORMER Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies haslaunched into the final stagesof a new solo album he hopes to release later this year.

The 37-year-old was back homeon Mondayto attend his wife Jackie Gillies’ civic ceremony at Fort Scratchley where she received the key to the city from Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

Gillies flewto Byron Bay following the reception to add the finishing touches to his debut solo album. It follows his previous post-Silverchair release with former act Bento.

BOO SEEKA TOURTHERE aren’t many more hotly-anticipated local releases for 2017 than Boo Seeka’s long-awaited debut albumNever Too Soonon August 4.Naturally, the electronic soul duo’s accompanying album tour is equally anticipated.

Newcastle’s Ben Gumbleton and Sydney producer Sam Croft are hitting the road in spring and perform at the Cambridge Hotel on October 21.Last year Boo Seekasold out the venue, so expect history to repeat.

ROCKIN’ ARGYLERAAVE Tapes like taking indie rock into places it rarely sees the light of day.

Last year they launched their self-titled debut EP at renown dance nightclub the King Street Hotel. The venue sold out and punters were lined up in the street.

On August 20 The Newcastle three-piece are taking their music to arguably the city’s most iconic nightclub, Argyle Houseor as we remember it, Fanny’s. Raave Tapes aren’t going alone. The evening will featuremusic across three stages from 20 acts.

BROUHAHA BREWSADELAIDE roots musicianKelly Brouhaha has sacrificed plenty to follow her dreams.

In the three yearssince her last release, Brouhaha has left an unhappy marriage and her mortgage behind to travelaround Australia, sleeping in her van while on tour.

Brouhaha’s van rolls into Hamilton’s The Commons next Thursday where she’ll unveil her new singleAs Long As There’s A Smile.

COLOURFUL ENDAMERICAN melodic hardcore band Outline In Colour arecoming to Islington’s Small Ballroom on September 24, the final show of their seven-date Australian tour.

The five-piece from Tulsaspectacularly sacked their vocalistK.C. Simonsenin December and outlinedalcohol abuse and his accusations of financial mismanagement by other band members asreasons for his departure in an incredibly detailed and honestFacebook post.

Outline In Colour have since reunited with their original vocalistJonathan Grimes.

DIRECT HIT MADEOUTLINE In Colour aren’t the only angry young American band coming to Newcastle this spring.Milwaukee punk quartet Direct Hit will play the Hamilton Station Hotel on September 1 with EbolagoldfishandHackTheMainframeduring their first Australian tour.The prolific rockers have recorded five albums since 2012, including this year’s Domesplitter and their first internationally-successful release Wasted Mind (2016).

Williamtown residents applaud Oakey class action

Williamtown residents applaud Oakey class action Questions: An open drain at Williamtown, near the RAAF Base. Williamtown residents have welcomed a class action by Oakey in Queensland over fire fighting foam contamination, after Williamtown launched its case in November.
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Defence: The Department of Defence is now facing two class actions from Williamtown and Oakey residents over the spread of fire fighting foam contamination from bases in both areas.

TweetFacebookNewcastle Heraldrevealed a world-leading expert on contaminants at the centre of the Williamtown scandal said it was “possible and indeed probable” the chemicals are carcinogenic.

The Heraldseries also revealed water in a drain at the centre of cluster fears near the Williamtown RAAF Base had staggering levels of the chemicals, and at least 24 people who had lived along Cabbage Tree Road had developed cancer in the past 15 years.

The Oakey legal case isbelieved to be the second Australian class action over fire fighting foam contaminants perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) after 400 Williamtown residents launched a class action through Gadens Lawyers in November.

More than 100 American communities are involved in class actions against fire fighting foam manufacturers and users.

“This action and the Williamtown action will pave the way to justice for those communities which have suffered,” Shine Lawyers special counsel Peter Shannon said in a statement before the formal announcement at Toowoomba on Tuesday.

“In Oakey hundreds of innocent families have been, and continue to be, exposed. Many have invested everything they have into this town and now all their hard work means nothing. They’re effectively trapped and can’t sell their properties or move their kids out of the contamination zone,” he said.

“The community has suffered under this cloud of contamination for years with no end in sight until now. Today marks the first step towards justice for the people of Oakey.”

Williamtown and Surrounds Residents Action Group spokesperson Rhianna Gorfine said the news was “fantastic”.

“Williamtown and surrounds welcomes the news of Oakey’s official class action proceedings. All affected communities by Defence contamination stand together for justice,” Ms Gorfine said.

“We renew our call for the government to help the affected communities immediately, to give the residents a future and not put us all through a lengthy court battle.

“The government can start with settlement proceedings right now.”

The Oakey case alleges toxic fire fighting foam chemicals have spread from the Oakey Defence base to nearby land, water and food sources, and into people’s blood streams.

“While we believe this is the worst contamination site in Australia, there are more than 60 Defence bases around the country which have exposed locals to the same toxic chemicals,” Mr Shannon said.

Mr Shannon said he expected the Federal Court would consult with the residentsgroup’s lawyers and lawyers for the Department of Defence in a few weeks to establish a plan for how the case will be heard.

The Department of Defence will be expected to file its defence within the next few months.

Philippe Grandjean,an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health, and world-leading expert on the fire fighting foam chemicals, said they can suppressthe body’s immune system.

When asked whether that could be one way exposure to thechemicals could lead to increased rates ofcancer, Professor Grandjean said it was “entirely possible”.

“With immune dysfunction, the body does not pick up the abnormal cells that are spreading and developing into a cancer,” he said.

Professor Grandjean said population studies had not been conducted on a large enough scale to make a judgement about cancer, but his gut reaction was that people should minimise their exposure to the chemicals as much as possible.