Never far from home

Justin Brake
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Songwriters Jim Dorie and John Cossar team up for their first extensive East Coast tour

John Cossar (left) and Jim Dorie are touring Atlantic Canada with their Ballads and Barnacles tour including a Wednesday show in Gander, Norris Point Saturday and the Tales, Trails and Tunes Festival in Stephenville Sunday. — Submitted photo

Imagine the excitement shared by two newly acquainted songwriters, poets in their own right, as they hit the open road to bring their music and stories to the towns and cities of Newfoundland and across the Maritimes.

These aren’t two young starry-eyed hopefuls though.

One, recently retired from a 37-year industrial career in Alberta, has moved home with his wife to New Glasgow, N.S., to be with his aging parents and learn about the place he left behind four decades ago.

The other is a restless soul from St. John’s who also married his high school sweetheart and left home long ago.

He’s in the passenger’s seat, wondering who might be there when he walks out on to that same Parish Hall stage in Burgeo where he got his start 40 years ago.

At 61, John Cossar released his debut album “Another Bridge to Burn” last fall and, in December, was shortlisted for the Atlantis Music Prize, an independent award for the best Newfoundland album of the year, judged solely on artistic merit.

By happenstance he was introduced to Dorie, who, at the same age, just released his sophomore album, and with whom Cossar shares some strikingly similar life parallels.

Both eager to embark on their first extensive tour of Canada’s East Coast, the pair decided to share the experience together and are calling their venture the “Ballads and Barnacles Tour.”

“I feel like I was born to do this type of thing and now I’m getting the opportunity to do it,” Cossar told The Telegram on the eve of the tour kickoff in Prince Edward Island.

“We’ve done a lot of driving around and the guy’s a nice fellow. He’s kind of crazier than I am,” he laughed. “We’ve got a lot in common, it turns out.”

Where one goes inward for inspiration, however, the other goes out.

Cossar’s songs are honest, introspective vignettes of his most tempestuous and dignified moments, while Dorie often turns to history and local lore for inspiration.

Dorie’s new record is “Ghosts of Pictou County.”

When he left Nova Scotia in the early ’70s, he hadn’t thought much about the place he was leaving behind and the intrigue it would later inspire in him.

“I never knew the province when I was a kid,” he explains. “When you’re away from it and you start hearing about places like Peggy’s Cove and the Annapolis Valley, you realize, I’m from that province and I’ve never seen these places.

“Since I’ve been back I’ve been reading a lot of books written by Maritime authors, like on the history of steel making, railroad building, coal mining, farming in the Valley, how the place got settled, who settled it, the expulsion of the Acadians — this kind of stuff.”

Accordingly, Dorie’s songs recall the stories of real and fictional characters, the places they’re from and the way life was in Pictou County’s past.

This week Cossar and Dorie continue their Newfoundland leg of the tour, with a Wednesday performance at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre before moving on to Norris Point on Saturday for the Tales, Trails and Tunes Festival, and a Sunday show in Stephenville.

Next week they continue on to Burgeo, where Cossar will play his first hometown show in years.

“You tend to wander away and life just takes you where it takes you,” he says.

“But I’ve got a real soft spot in my heart for Burgeo. I started playing, probably around 15 or 16 — on the stage in the Parish Hall — and I get to go back there.

“I guess there’s not much to say about that other than there’s no avoiding that it’s going to be a thrill because it’s the same place I started at, and I didn’t realize I had big dreams. So to finally go back there at this age — that’s something not everybody gets to do, and it’s very strange and exciting at the same time because no matter what I think about it I know I’m going to feel something.”

For more information on the Ballads & Barnacles tour, visit Dorie’s website,, or Cossar’s:

Organizations: The Telegram, Gander Arts

Geographic location: Newfoundland, East Coast, Burgeo Alberta New Glasgow Pictou County Canada Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia Annapolis Valley Norris Point

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