Mick Groves

MICK GROVES - Fellow Journeyman: The Songs of Ewan MacColl

Ten years after the death of Ewan MacColl, fellow Salfordian and ex-Spinner Mick Groves received a commission from Salford City Council to organise a concert to honour the great man. Groves assembled a set of material composed or collected by MacColl together with songs which, over the years, he had come to associate with the artist formerly known - at least in his home town - as Jimmie Miller. The plaque on the wall of Salford Workingmen's Community Library was duly unveiled, the concert was a success and Groves determined to record a collection based on it.

However, it took another five years and a move to Exeter before the record was actually made in Phil Beer's Riverside Studios. Beer also lends instrumental support along with a raft of other local musicians plus Jones's old friend John McCormick, who made the trek from Liverpool to the West Country for the session. Amazingly, given that The Spinners broke up seventeen years ago, it's Groves ' first solo album, largely because after the band his involvement in local politics left little time for the music.

The collection naturally encompasses standards like ‘The Manchester Rambler’ and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. However, Groves also explores less well-known numbers such as ‘That Bomb Has Got To Go’ and ‘Black And White’ as examples of MacColl's lifelong political activism. The musical arrangements are straightforward and uncluttered, the lyrics clearly articulated with requisite gravitas but sly touches of humour when appropriate; one feels even the stern MacColl would have approved. Groves ends with his finest song, ‘The Joy Of Living’, penned when he realised his rambling days were over. It's a fitting conclusion to a project which, now it's done, you realise could only have been undertaken with such grace and integrity by Mick Groves.

Dave Tuxford