Rekindling the Spirit 

After a hiatus Spirit of the West musicians set their sites on Everest

WHO: Spirit of the West

WHERE: Dusty’s

WHEN: March 17

Arranging an interview with members of Spirit of the West, I had to follow all the proper avenues, first speaking with a member of their promotional company who asked, "What type of interview are you after?"

Well, I had to think about that for a moment. There was no new album, no major tour. It is St. Patrick's Day and Canada's premier Celtic band is playing in Whistler. That's reason enough to celebrate, but not quite enough to fill a column. So what have Jon, Geoff, Vince and Hugh been doing for the past year since releasing Hit Parade ?

I decided to surf the net for a few clues that might lead to an interesting interview. Their Web site offered no recent or personal information. A rather dry article tells me the band has left Warner Music, their longtime record label.

But the next Web page I stumble across leaves me quite perplexed. This article speaks about the slow demise and near break up of Spirit of the West. In fact, a string of backdated articles seem to foreshadow the same fate?

I may not be the most dedicated Spirit fan – indeed, I only jumped on the bandwagon about six years ago after discovering the group during my college days. But I did make a special trip to the music store as I was leaving the country on an extended vacation, just so that I might have Weights and Measures in my walkman. I also pride myself on exposing a very large British and Australian population to the joys of Save This House . So how was it that I seemed oblivious to their dimming spotlight?

"We felt we needed a break," says lead vocalist/guitarist, Jon Mann. "We’ve been doing this since 1983. We’ve been around a while. We have 10 or 11 albums out. Everyone felt we really needed to be recharged and get away from the put out an album, tour, put out an album, tour. So we did make that conscious decision that everyone would go off and do their own things."

So it would seem the boys haven’t stepped out of the spotlight, but simply found new ones to step into. Perhaps this is why it never occurred to me that Spirit had disappeared.

Separately, they’ve remained highly visible. Geoff Kelly (vocals, flute, whistles, bodhran, guitar) and Tobin Frank (accordion) both play with another well-known Celtic band, The Paperboys. Hugh McMillan (bass) can be heard alongside flamenco guitarist Oscar Lopez and has also taken to producing up-and-comers Town Pants (see article). Vince Ditrich (drums) is exploring the solo avenue. Mann has been seen on stage and television lately, re-exploring his thespian roots, and also intends to release a solo effort.

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