A Leith out of Roy’s book

Damien Leith is returning to Traralgon with a tribute show to Roy Orbison.When Damien Leith first unleashed his phantasmagorical falsetto on Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, it had a cathartic effect on members of the audience in line with the subject matter.

Little did the unassuming Irish singer know, his soaring rendition bellowed from the Australian Idol stage in 2006, inciting a Mark Holden ‘touchdown’, would open the door to Orbison’s world for years to come.

After winning the Idol crown, Leith’s run-in with Roy eventually led to recording a tribute album ‘Roy – A Tribute to Roy Orbison’, in Nashville facilitated by his personal idol’s late wife, Barbara Orbison.

“I’ve got a soft spot for ‘Crying’ because that is the song I sung on Idol, and it’s kind of the reason I ended up recording the album; Barbara heard it and that’s what opened the door up to meeting (her) and everything to do with Roy,” Leith said.

“The idea of the album was to take his songs and not copy them, but be true to them at the same time.”

The finished product was entrenched in the ARIA Top 20 chart for 22 weeks, was nominated for an ARIA award and sold multi-platinum.

Its success spawned a tour about six years ago, and the concert was revived in 2016 when Leith produced an encore string of six shows to celebrate Orbison’s 80th birthday.

The sold out metropolitan run is now set for a country reprisal and Leith – from Milltown in country Ireland himself – is headed for Traralgon next Friday.

Commemorating 30 years since Orbison was inducted into the Rock n Roll Songwriters Hall of Fame, the show is also a journey back in time for a nostalgic Leith.

“I didn’t start singing until I was just 16 and I was into all the falsetto stuff and higher songs, so I started looking around for different artists who did that style of music and Roy was first and foremost on the list,” he said.

“It’s a traditional tribute, I really like him so it’s an opportunity to play his songs.

“I don’t try to be him, act like him or dress up as him, it’s kind of a fan’s point of view of Roy Orbison. I love his music so it’s sort of my versions of his songs.”

Leith will bring to life classic hits including ‘In Dreams’, ‘Crying’ ‘Running Scared’, ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ and ‘Blue Angel’ along with less well-known works from the back catalogue.

He said many of the die-hard Roy fans he encountered over the years had requested songs off the beaten track, and he’d come to embrace a plethora of them.

“It’s really to show another side of Roy’s music. Everyone knows the hits but these also these other ones that are amazing songs as well that maybe didn’t get as much time (in the spotlight),” he said.

“There’s a lot of extra songs I’ve never recorded or done before, so the set list is a bit bigger this time. There’s more songs, more music so it’s definitely worth coming along to.”

The audience will also be treated to some intimate insights into Roy’s life, garnered from Leith’s relationship with Barbara and co-writer of ‘Crying’ Joe Melson.

“I like to have moments in the shows. I have little stories that people would have never heard about Roy Orbison which I like to share,” Leith said.

“I try to make the show very personable rather than just here I am doing Roy Orbison songs, I try to give people a little more than just the songs.”

Leith will play at the Latrobe Performing Arts Centre in Traralgon next Friday.

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Looking down the track

Full steam ahead: Warrnambool City councillor Mike Neoh is pushing for a clear plan from state government to improve the region’s train service. Picture: Morgan HancockRELATED:

Passengers value the south-west region’s train service

How one collision prompted 20 upgrades on the Warrnambool train line

The future of Warrnambool’s train servicewas brought into focus this week by a surprise state government announcement –a $10 millionupgrade of 20 passive level crossings on the line.

The upgrades, due to be finished by the end of theyear, will allow temporary speed restrictions introduced after last July’s collision betweena truck and a train at Pirron Yallockto be lifted, resolving significant punctuality issues.

Warrnambool City councillor Michael Neoh welcomed the news, but said it was “reactive”.

“While I applaud the upgrade of thecrossings, it should be seen in the light of a long-term plan to upgrade the track, not just to simply react to getting the service back to its current service level,” he said.

The desiredimprovementsare well known – new rolling stock, track and signalling upgrades, extracrossing loops andsections of track duplication. Many werelong-term goals in the government’sRegional Development Network Plan, released last May.

Cr Neoh said acosted, clearplan for the line’s future was crucial.

“Without a plan it’s just like theReid Oval or ourCBD –unless you’ve got a plan, you can’t advocate for the money and you can’t stage it,” he said.

“We’re already disadvantaged by the fact we’re three hours away (from Melbourne) and with worse infrastructure than say Bendigo or Ballarat in terms of rail, it just creates more barriers.”

The councillor and former mayor said action was up to “the will of the government of the day”.

“We’ve just had a $10 million commitment –why didn’t that happen fiveto 10 years ago?” he said. “It’s only because of public outcry and that it’s takingfour hours to get to Melbournethat we’ve had some intervention. You could imagine if this was Geelong they would be screaming and the politicians’ ears would be pricking up.”

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the government was working on a plan to improve the Warrnambool line. But she was unable to pinpoint a timeline or costs.

Ms Allan said the government wasworking out what needed to be done, and then it would act.

“We do need to do that planning work first before we can understand the scope of the infrastructure works that need to be done, how much they’re going to cost, how long they will take to help guide future decisions particularly around budget allocations,” she said.

“I have a very strong understanding of how an improvement to rail services would make a big difference for people who already live in the south-west but alsoit would make a big difference in helping attractmore people to live in the south-west.

“I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re not so much interested in whether or not it’s a safe seat or a marginal seat, we’ve recognised that there needed to be an additional service put in for Warrnamboool and we’ve done that.”

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Angus jetting to Malaysia

This week’s sportstar of the week winner, Angus Stewart, with Jack Piercy from award sponsor, Iguana.HE’S only been on a plane once before and he’s never been overseas.

So 11-year-old Angus Stewart from Tinonee is counting the days until he leaves for Malaysia with the Australian under 12 futsal side in November.

Angus is the Manning River Times-Iguana Sportstar of the Week,earning a $50 open order at Iguana.

The Australians will be away for a fortnight, although it is understood the itinerary hasn’t been determined yet.

They’ll be playing a number of local combinations while they’ll also feature in a tournament involving other international teams towards the end of the tour. Angus said it’s going to be a great trip.

“I’ve only been in a plane once before when we went to Queensland,’’ Angus said.

Angus gained a place in the squad following the national championships played at Penrith. He was a member of the Manning-Far North Coast side.

Manning-Far North Coast didn’t have a great campaign, missing out on the finals. So Angus said it was a ‘real surprise’ when he was named in the Australian team.

He thought he played pretty well, but said he was forced to do a lot of defending.

Angus started playing futsal about four years ago, it being the the natural progression from soccer. Last year his side Furious 8 won the Manning futsal premiership and they’re currently leading the competition in their bid to defend the title.

He’s a member of the Tinonee Eagles Soccer Club and will go into the under 12s this year. He’s looking forward to this because he’ll be playing in competitive age divisionfor the first time and on a full field.

Angus started soccer with the Eagles when he was five, following his older sister into the sport.

At this stage he hasn’t settled on a position, with players encouraged to have a crack at a few spots in the non-competitive age divisions.

Angus likesto play up front, but he’s equally as happy turning out in the midfield.

Jack started in Football Mid North Coast’s Skills Acquisition Program (SAP) when he was nine, although he missed last year.

He would eventually like to try out for the Football Mid North Coast teams that play in NPL fixtures, but he’ll see how he fares with Tinonee this season.

Angus said he enjoys playing futsal and soccer and doesn’t prefer one over the other. However, he added the faster pace and the opportunity to score more goals does make futsal an attractive proposition.

Angus is also captain at Tinonee Public School. While futsal and soccer are his main sporting pursuits, he’s had a crack at a couple of others with school teams, including cricket.

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Memo to Gladys: ignore the Riverina at your peril

INCOMING Premier Gladys Berijiklian had a deafening mandate to unscramble the council merger mess.

But she must be hard of hearing.

In a move squarely aimed at stemming the political blood loss, Ms Berijiklian this week struck a compromise position: forge ahead with council mergers in Sydney and give a reprieve toyet-to-be-merged bush councils.

The plan put electoralexpediencyahead of natural justice, a hallmark of the Baird government.

It means councils surrounding the political fault line ofOrange –namely Cabonne and Oberon –are spared while councils in safe seats, including many in the Riverina, are fed to the wolves.

Ms Berijiklian’s rationale, that it was a costly and logistical nightmare to de-merge amalgamated councils, is mere obfuscation.

The merged councils are still young and any meaningful efficiency savings have not yet been delivered.

The decision will do little to appease restless voters or to change the perception of a populist government making policy by polling figures.

In local communities like Gundagai, Tumbarumba and Tumut, public sentiment is running red hot against mergers.

At last year’s federal election, voters in those communities savaged the Coalition, despite mergersbeing a state issue.

If Ms Berijiklian thinks the passage of time will soothe that anger, she doesn’t understand bush communities.

Under her revised plan, councils that were locked in legal action against the mergers will be let off the hook.

This arbitrary line in the sand is particularly galling for Gundagai merger critics.

Gundagai was locked in a jointchallenge in the Land and Environment Court with other dissenting councils but was forced to abandon it when the legal bills became insurmountable.

On this flimsy basis, Gundagai council has been consigned to history.

It’s a perversion of justice and a kick in the face for democracy.

It might not be apparent to those in Macquarie Street, but bush communities value their councils.

To strike councils from the map, especially financially stable ones that were told there would be no forced mergers, is a disgrace.

If this government has any decency left, it will cuts its losses and roll back mergers in the bush.

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There’s more work to do on Closing the Gap

It is an affront to Indigenous Australians that their lives are almost always portrayed in mainstream media through a prism of what the Prime Minister called “despondency and deficit” when releasing the2017 Closing the Gap report. Descriptions of poverty, domestic violence, drunkenness and homelessnessmay be well-intentioned attempts to draw attention to ongoing problems, but they do not convey the full picture of Aboriginal lives.

It is easier to group “Indigenous Australians” under one catch-all categorythan to makemental accommodation for a population with big differences between individuals and groups, much as exist among non-Indigenous Australians.

Alice Springs town councillor Jacinta NampijinpaPricedrew attention to this obvious factin a searing Facebook post, lambasting”Aboriginal middle-class activists” who want to change thedate of Australia Day. She said they “come from privilegethemselves” compared to the country’s most marginalised people, and accused them of making “an even bigger deal out of this than actually saving the lives of Aboriginal people who are living among us now”.

The focus should be on the future, not the past, Price wrote, “so that the most marginalised Aboriginal people of this country whose first language is usually not English, who do not have access to media, whose lives are affected at alarming rates by family violence can have the same opportunities as those who claim to feel pain because a country celebrates how lucky we are on a date that marks the arrival of the first fleet”.

The idea of a national day of mourning is anathema to Price.”What do we have to benefit from being in a constant state of mourning? Mourning does not give us freedom, it imprisons us and I have had enough. I bury my family far too regularly and that is all the mourning I can handle.”

The latestClosing the Gap report card is cause for yet another round of national hand-wringing. Anguish may begenuinely felt, but it’s action thatcounts.

As the 10-year mark for the Closing the Gap strategy approaches,the Council of Australian Governments has agreed to work with Indigenous Australians to refresh the targets, and rightly so. Additional targets should be considered, for example in relation to housing, justice and domestic violence. Any changes should be based on twonon-negotiable principles: that they are driven by Indigenous communities, and they are based on evidence as to what works.

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