Filled with the lore and traditions of the East Coast and told in a voice that is at once captivating and refreshingly candid, this is a narrative journey about small-town life, curiosity and creative fulfillment, and finally, about leaving everything you know behind only to learn that no matter where you go, home will always be with you.
I've been a fan of Great Big Sea over the years and have seen them many times in concerts.
I first discovered them in the mid 1990s when they were just starting out. Sister Sarah, my friend, Leanne, and I had gone to the Exhibition Grounds here in Toronto for an east coast show (Sister Sarah and I are originally from Nova Scotia) and Leanne is from Vancouver (she moved back there in 1997). Cape Breton fiddler Sandy McIntyre played in the beer garden before the show at the bandshell.
|Leanne (with Sandy McIntyre fiddling on stage behind her) - mid 1990s|
|Leanne and I - mid 1990s|
The Irish Descendants were headlining and Great Big Sea was opening for them. We'd never heard of Great Big Sea and they were good! And cute! And yes, the Irish Descendants were good too. Alas, I didn't take pictures of Sister Sarah or the show.
Alan Doyle was one of the members in Great Big Sea. He seems like a nice guy and I was interested in reading his story. I figured it would be a good one and it was.
Doyle tells of growing up in a small fishing village just outside of St. John's, NF. His family (dad, mom and four kids) didn't have much but they didn't realize that because they had what everyone else had (or didn't have what others didn't have) ... they didn't even have a bathroom for many years. Most of Petty Harbour is related to them somehow ... kinda cramps your style when you're looking for a girlfriend because most of the girls are either your cousin or Protestant.
We hear what it's like working on the wharfs when the fisherman would come in and his job was to cut the tongues from the codfish and try to sell them for pocket money. Things improved when he got a job when he was 16 in St. John's in a museum as an interpreter. Plus he started picking up gigs in bands, which eventually led to him meeting Séan McCann and forming Great Big Sea.
I liked the writing style ... I thought it was honest and humorous. I bet Doyle would be a fun guy to sit and have a beer with. The dialogue is great because it's written phonetically and I could hear Newfie accents when I read it. At times, there is a bit of swearing. Throughout the book there are pictures of when he was younger ... with his oversized glasses and peach fuzz moustache, he was stylin' (NOT!). Ha! His mom's bread sounds and looks amazing ... I haven't seen "double" bread since I left Nova Scotia.
This was a fun yet interesting book about an east coast Canadian who started with not a lot financially and has done well for himself. I'd recommend this book.
Update: The author was recently at the reference library talking about his book and Gord and I went. Nice guy!