AN ALL-STAR band of local musicians took to Phillip Island Winery’s courtyard stage for the launch of Ventnor singer-songwriter Rob Gray’s new CD, ‘Sun Dog’.
On a cold, clear night, with the smoke from the braziers hanging like a surreal thin blanket overhead, and with the winery packed to the rafters, the band lit up – picking one by one through Rob’s searing and beautiful songs.
With Andy Stewart on drums, guitar and vocals (and fresh from mixing Paul Kelly’s new album at his Mill Road studio), Zac Ablett on keyboards and acoustic guitar, Col Matthews playing lead guitar (and drums), Bernadette Carroll on vocals, Kevin Woods, steel guitar, Rob Wilson, double Bass and Frank Coletta on percussion, the sound and musicianship was sensational.
Our friend Rob Gray’s face told the story: too ill to play, surrounded by family and friends, and with his songs in the best of hands, he beamed.
Bern Carroll, her vocals always brilliant, brought the crowd to life with the eponymous “On The Island”, and belting out “Talkin’ Politician Blues”. And Col Matthews’ lead guitar – spare, wirey, melodic – sat absolutely perfectly with Zac Ablett’s haunting rendition of “We’re All The Same”.
But the anchor for the night was band leader, drummer, guitarist and organiser, Andy Stewart. Rob’s intense resonant lyrics and beautiful melodies were stylishly interpreted by Andy’s classy accompaniment and restrained vocal style.
More than 200 CDs were sold at the launch, which was also a fundraiser to help with Rob’s cancer treatment.
The Mayor of Ventnor, local Estate Agent and Auctioneer Greg Price (who has his own definition for the term “party faithful”, and has the party paraphernalia to prove it), raised over $600 with an auction of wine and original artwork from the CD cover (by Zac Ablett).
Our thanks and wishes to Rob and Cathie for letting us be a part of this night, and for Rob’s wonderful songs. Our thanks also to Sierra Dunton and Andy for pulling it all together, and to all in the band.
Again, our thanks to our very special staff and friends, Deb and Mike Justice, Nadia, Sue Box, Pip Cleeland (who also made bread), Emma Powles, Annette and Chris Hilton, Clive and all others who helped and donated their time. Lastly, our warm thanks to Ted and Chris from ‘Paddock to Plate’ who generously donated the pork and beef spit roasts (enough to feed 140) and sausages for the night.
We’ve got stocks of Rob’s CD ‘Sun Dog’ at the winery for anyone who wishes to pick up a copy. It’s a wonderful CD; evocative, deeply thoughful, and superbly written and performed.