SPIRIT OF THE WEST
Spirit of the West is a Celtic folk-rock group, founded in Vancouver in 1983. The original trio featured John Mann (b Winnipeg), Geoffrey Kelly (b Dumfries, Scotland) and J. Knutson. Subsequent personnel changes brought in Hugh MacMillan, Linda McRae and the group’s first drummer, Vince Ditrich. Mann and Kelly have been mainstays through the band’s history.
The group brought a West Coast flavour and activist spirit to Celtic-influenced material that included a fair number of singalong drinking songs such as “The Crawl” and “Home for a Rest.” A re-recorded version of “Political” (originally on Labour Day) became the group’s first Canadian hit, spurring sales of 50 000-plus units for their major label debut, Save This House (1990). Extensive European touring shifted the lyrical focus outside of Canada for the critically acclaimed Faithlift (1993). The material on Two Headed (1995) was written in tandem with songs that appeared on Open Heart Symphony (1996), a live recording with the VANCOUVER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA. Weights & Measures (1997) featured such notable guests as Capercaille singer Karen Matheson and Fairport Convention’s Ric Sanders.
Over the following decade, the band’s members (with Tobin Frank replacing McRae) regrouped periodically for tours and performances. They released the studio album Star Trails in 2004, and cut 2 new songs for Spirituality 1983 – 2008: The Consumate Compendium (2008), a double-CD anthology marking the band’s 25th anniversary. Mann released the albums Acoustic Kitty (2002) and December Looms (2007) while establishing himself as a stage and television (Battlestar Galactica, Intelligence) actor. Kelly worked regularly with Vancouver Celtic band The Paperboys and released an album of his own, Gringo Star, in 2002. Ditrich released the album Supertonic (2002) and now works as an artist manager and producer. McMillan regularly tours with such artists as Cara Luft, James Keelaghan and Oscar Lopez.