In a music scene as internationalized as the one in the United States, it is unfathomable that one of Canada's biggest concert attractions could go virtually unnoticed south of the border. Perhaps its inauspicious origins as a progressive, Celtic folk trio with no commercial potential dampened its reception with all but an enthusiastic cult following in the lower 48.
Twelve years of relentless touring, innovation, and a bit of electricity has seen the Spirits blur the distinctions between a myriad of styles that one could not imagine belonging together-say, Lawrence Welk doing Pink Floyd, or U2 playing the Chieftains' greatest hits. But the band does it in a way that works "big" and has earned them two gold records and a number of Juneau awards (Canada's equivalent of a Grammy) along the way. Their sixth recording, Faithlift, was finally picked up by an American label (Elektra) after going platinum, and has found them gaining an increasing audience beyond their native soil.
Now a quintet, the band's latest release, Two Headed, reaffirms John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly as one of Canada's best songwriting teams. The collection of songs covers the whole spectrum: haunting, whimsical, sonic, quirky.
Lyrically, its style is decidedly folkloric-stories are told from a point of view that is intensely personal and often political. The pain of a spouse's miscarriage comes across poignantly in "Never Had It In Me": "The day became undone/She called her faith a liar/She lost the lovely one/Whose weight was once inside her/Her son was snatched from the sky/His leap of faith blew him wide/Took him over to the other side."
A reflection on the right to die is conveyed in the country-flavored "Unplugged": "The ceiling's too familiar/Laying slackjawed on my back/My words spill out like puzzles/She tries to fill the gaps....I will not burden those I love/I will not be a spoon fed bird/Or beg for mercy from above/Just let my cord become unplugged."