The Liner/Sleeve Notes:
“Al Clouston was born in St. John’s Newfoundland. For many years his hobby has been collecting Newfoundland humour. He claims that if put in print these stories lose their colour and therefore have to be heard to be appreciated. For the past several years he has been entertaining various groups on the island at conventions and “after dinner” talks on the “true wit” of Newfoundland people. The performance for this recording was done at the Anglican Church Hall at Lewisporte, Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland.
Once upon a time, in Newfoundland come October time, the winds got louder, the seas stormier, the nights darker and colder and the boats were hauled out onto slips or turned bottom up and the fishermen retreated into their homes, settling into the winter round of net mending, wood cutting, tackling the thousand chores that had been left suspended since the ice cleared and the boats had been launched in pursuit of King Cod.
As the nights darkened and the ice and snow gripped the land in a cruel embrace, more time was spent playing with the children, more time was spent dusting off the accordian and the fiddle, more time was spent welcoming and being welcomed into neighbours’ homes. More time was spent too with the Old-Timers – those whose age and salt-stiffened bones had kept them shore-bound all summer long. Come winter they recounted tales of ice and fire, of gales and men lost and saved, of hard skippers and scheming agents and strange bunkmates.
Once upon a time!
But times change.
Television and roads and education, the combined benefits and ills of the 20th Century have directed that energy, that sense of sharing, outwards to a broader world that rarely has time to stop and listen to stories, a world rushing into change at such speed that the memories of the past are left scattered behind like dust on the runway whipped into frenzy at the passing of a Jumbo Jet.
But in Newfoundland that sense of being bonded by language remains; a language that knit a people together along five thousand miles of tough shoreline confronting the most savage sea in the world – the North Atlantic. At heart of that language was humour: a humour of defiance, of joy, at times sardonic and bleak and often of character and situation, a humour delighted with wit and word-play.
For it is laughter that lifts us above the harsh realities of life and it is laughter that the Newfoundlander throws in the face of change. He has always laughed at politicians, a habit that could be adopted with profit across the rest of the continent. And he has often laughed at death, recognising it for what it is, the last joke that can be played upon anyone.
Up in Island Cover a few years ago, an old man died.
For some reason, he turned (went dark) very quickly.
On the second night of the wake two women came in and one said to the other:
“My, h’Uncle Lige is wunnaful black, idn’ee.”
Her friend replied:
“Yes, sartinly maid, ‘is a picture toob is turned out.”
And so, even if our life style is threatened and even if the Banks are scraped clean, we’ll laugh all the way, yes sir, we’ll pay everybody back with laughter and if that doesn’t make us immortal, at least it makes us different.
This, Al Clouston’s first collection of stories, was recorded live at a dinner in Lewisporte, given in the Anglican Parish Hall. It is a rich and spontaneous example of that bonding that unites men in laughter – laughter that arises from humane and wise observation of our fellows. Like good home-made bread, it something to share.
Share it with us.
Every so often you find a record that is by someone who you want a different record from, and this is one of those records where I had wanted another record from Al Clouston but found this instead.
So, the album opens with Al doing comedy, and the first part is “Big Mout’s” – and it has a joke a woman who makes ice cubes and took the ice cube with him. And well, there is the “Big Mout’s” joke, and I didn’t get it. Then we go onto “The Hi-Q” part, and it’s about Newfoundlanders and jobs involving IQ tests. I’m not really understanding this Newfoundland humor, comedy records never do it for me. “Fresh Air” comes next, and it’s a joke about air in Montreal and how it’s fresher than Newfoundlands. Onto part two which starts with “Paid Fer Ut” and it’s a joke about a guy who wants to be paid for going to chuch. Next comes “Dee-Ciples On Say Galilay” and once more, I’m so lost with this comedy stuff. Comedy records are so hard to follow. “The H’Anglican Minister” comes next, and well, still the same as before, it’s a story and I don’t know what is going on. The final segment of jokes on the A-Side opens with “Picture Toob” and I am sure it’s about TV. I can say one thing for sure, the audience on this record sure are loving it. “False Alarms” comes next, and they seem to be talking about old fire engines. “You Werks Fer D’Govament” comes next, and well Newfoundland accents are really hard to understand. I want to laugh, but I don’t know what is going on. The A-Side closes with the joke “Agin’ D’Current Did or ‘Live” and well, I still do not know what the hell is going on. Everyone keeps laughing though.
“Turr Shootin’” opens the B-Side and it’s a joke about hunting or something. Something involving history? The next joke is “Zound Bone” and I’m still unsure of these jokes, but apparently Newfoundlanders are really funny people, so I guess this just isn’t my thing? “The Cat” comes next, and I believe it was just a joke about decapitating a cat? “Short Cut Through the Graveyard” comes next and it’s a joke about someone falling into a grave. Then we go onto “Sin Jahn’s Streetcar” and Al does all these accents and I can’t understand it. The second segment closes with “Two Roosters” and basically it’s a joke about a guy who hits a hen, and the owner of the hen asks for $5 for the hen, and the guy says he can buy two hens and a rooster for that, and the woman says ‘yea but, I had two roosters who thought alot about that hen‘ – crowd laughs. Then comes “Proper T’ing” which is an explanation about a Newfoundland quote. “‘Tis a Negg” comes next, and I don’t get it either. We go onto “45 and 45 Make 90” and I’m not sure what this one is about by I’m going to try to figure it out also. It’s a joke about the weather! Weather jokes are fun. The Album closes with the “Eel Skin Story” and it’s a story written by someone who is a Newfoundland public figure and well, that’s it for this album.
A1 – Big Mout’s / The Hi-Q / Fresh Air
A2 – Paid Fer Ut / Dee-Ciplies on Say Galilay / The H’Anglican Minister
A3 – Picture Toob / False Alarms / You Werks Fer D’Govament / Agin’ D’Current Did or ‘Live
B1 – Turr Shootin’ / Zound Bone / The Cat
B2 – Short Cut Through Graveyard / Sin Jahn’s Streetcar / Two Roosters
B3 – Proper T’ing / ‘Tis A Negg
B4 – 45 and 45 Make 90
B5 – Eel Skin Story
Studio Musicians & Other Album Credits:
Recorded by Rod Curry
Other Albums I Own by Al Clouston: