Those Grey Foggy Days

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Brown’s Point, Joe Batts Arm July 30, 2016

Even the fog is beautiful here.

My first trip to Fogo Island, over two decades ago was on a grey, foggy day in August. A Brimstone Head Festival weekend was our reason and as we drove from Stag Harbour to Fogo I marveled at the ponds and rocks and wild flowers everywhere.

Yesterday was a stereotypical Newfoundland day. We had some ‘weather’. It poured rain in the night and morning, dried up before noon and was sun splitting the rocks hot in the afternoon. We needed to run a couple of errands so left Deep Bay looking like this to drive 20 minutes to Joe Batts Arm to a whole different temperature and weather situation.

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Deep Bay shot, as I was getting in the car to drive across the island.
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Shoal Bay

My drive destination was tidalArt, a recently opened art studio and gallery in Joe Batts Arm. You can still smell the fresh paint, but that’s because they were all painting.

The fog had just completely erased the other side of the harbour giving the impression that the studio was facing open sea… somewhere out there.

One painter was working at the picnic table en plein air, as they say and I jokingly hoped aloud that she had not been painting the houses across the harbour. She admitted that indeed she had been. Oops!

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Painting “en plein fog” in Joe Batts Arm.

The latest venture/adventure for Janice Thomson, not only is the studio her gallery and a workplace, she launched it by hosting a ten day artist retreat for visiting painters.

With a group of 18 participants spending a variety of number of days in the program, there were sketches and studies displayed on several walls of tidalArt . We visited briefly and spoke to a number of artists who were working in the studio or on their way to outdoor locations to paint. They’d had a beautiful week and the smiles and camaraderie demonstrated the success of the event.

The displayed paintings and sketches  showed their visits to a number of communities as well as a boat trip and day on Little Fogo Islands. According to artistic evidence, this was their first foggy day and they seemed to be enjoying that change of scenery too.

A coffee break visit at Herring Cove Art Gallery also got us a reminder that there was an Eddie Coffey concert that evening in Fogo at Beaches Bar and Grill. We’d reserved tickets and completely forgotten. It’s July 30th already?!

A dinner date with friends at Beaches gave us a great chance to pick up our tickets. We took a quick run home to get organized a bit and caught the grey fog clouds trying to creep into Deep Bay.

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Eddie did not invent grey foggy days by any means but he sure made them famous.

Everybody sing!

A singer and songwriter who travels coast to coast in Canada and through the United States, he’d a legend and an open book. His songs reflect Newfoundland hardships and joys, politics and traditions. His style is traditional with the button accordion as his instrument of choice but he picks an amazing guitar too.

Grey Foggy Day has become a Newfoundland standard, covered by most bands here or about here. It makes me think of my late neighbour who grew up in Parson’s Pond and hated working in the hay as a child. She also sang it as part of a choir of seniors.

Eddie’s a showman in his flashy dress and a proud Newfoundlander and Canadian who does a lot of charity events for veterans and other causes, including Breast Cancer Awareness. His songs, in true folk tradition reflect the struggles of workers and families and also their joys.

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Eddie Coffey, July 30, 2016

His history with alcohol is well known by those who have followed his career and music and he told the packed house that he had been to Fogo Island 18 years previously with Dick Nolan.

“I don’t remember of minute of it, Dick and I were in the bag the whole time.”

Some of the laughter was uncomfortable, acknowledging the hard life he lived. Everyone is pleased to see him well and still performing after making is first recording in the last 1970s.

He’s enjoying Fogo Island this time and has already booked a second show on August 27. Rhonda Stamp, his guitarist is also happy to be here for the first time. She claims she couldn’t write a song to save her life but sings a couple of cover songs and some of Eddie’s material during each set.

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Coffey’s colourful history has led to many successes and set backs too. He has multiple albums recorded and is a very prolific songwriter. His accordions suffered damage this year and he had assistance from fans through a Go Fund Me campaign to get repairs done because his shows still only afford him a meager lifestyle and the lack of instruments meant a lack of income.

He promised to write a song about Fogo Island soon. That should boost the coffers for sure.

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In the fashion of other entertainers like Evans and Doherty and Fergus O’Byrne, he also is supportive of upcoming talent and featured a local accordion player, Mark Warrick in his show. Mark was invited to perform with Eddie for a couple of songs.

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In this clip, Eddie shows off some of his guitar skills but later in the set, Mark took the lead on the accordion. It was interesting to see that Eddie chose to play with him, rather than just walking away for a break. A sign of a mentor and an acknowledgement of Mark’s skills that Eddie chose to accompany him, I think.

Although they probably work from a set list of some sort, requests were granted throughout the evening including this one, 709 (the area code for Newfoundland). The crowd sang along and danced in appreciation.

Eddie also chose to open his set with Grey Foggy Day and stated and knew that at the end of the night, when he played it again, the dance floor would be packed.

We didn’t last until the end but the dance floor was taking a beating when we left.

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Thanks Janice and artist friends for sharing your light and Eddie for sharing your music on a Grey Foggy Day. We remain devoted fans.

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Somewhere, Fogo Island, on a Grey Foggy Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

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