The Log Drivers
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The Log Drivers

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | INDIE

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | INDIE
Band Folk Celtic




"Keeping Jazz and Folk Alive"

In terms of contemporary music, no two genres hold more traditionalist purists than jazz and folk. But for Spencer Murray, Scottish border pipe player, flutist and lone Edmontonian in the Celtic folk band, The Log Drivers, mixing the two sounds makes perfect sense.

“Hearing Charlie Parker was the first time I realized the direct connection between jazz and folk,” Murray explains. “The way he plays melodies, embellishes them and rephrases them lends itself directly to folk.”

Murray, like his bandmates – guitarist Nate Douglas and fiddler Julie Fitzgerald – all started playing folk music with an interest in jazz that came later. The three all attended Humber College in Toronto, where they met, but were all in different years of the music program.

“When I got to Humber, everyone kept talking about this amazing fiddle playing who was off in some major competitions,” Murray says. “Turns out that fiddler was Julie [Fitzgerald].”

Murray studied saxophone at Humber, an instrument that he fell in love with after hearing John Coltrane, but being the son of a Scottish immigrant, at age eight Murray was playing bagpipes.

“In high school, I actually played in Dropkick Murphy-style punk rock bands,” Murray points out. He goes on to explain that with his high school bands and his first folk band, The Nicky Tams, the style was a little more traditional and straight forward, something from which The Log Drivers have shied away.

“There’s a definite difference between the bands I was in before and with this project now,” Murray observes. “We’re playing with a lot of different ways in expressing ideas and harmonies and we’re playing with a lot of odd time signatures, which is obviously tied to our jazz education.”

A new sense of rhythm and melody isn’t the only thing the band gained from their educations. As a part of the music program, Humber College offers sixteen hours of professional recording studio time to fourth year students – something that Murray, Douglas, and Fitzgerald took advantage of for the band’s debut release.

The band recorded a mix of original songs and traditional favourites over the span of seven months. Murray points out that there was a steep learning curve for the band while recording and that even the first set of recordings were completely redone.

Once recording at Humber College finished up, the band moved on to Canterbury Studios in Toronto, the same studio in which Canadian greats like Barenaked Ladies and Sarah Slean recorded, to finalize some of the tracks and redo a few more of the recordings. While the core three of the band is Fitzgerald, Douglas and Murray, the band recruited Jesse Dollmont to sing on the album and Elliott Thomas to play banjo, though neither will be performing live with the band.

“Actually, Nate [Douglas] has started singing and none of us had any idea he had this great voice,” Murray points out. “We’ve had to rework the songs a bit to go from a female voice to a male voice and really it should because they’re two different singers, but it’s been working out for us.”

Be it transitioning from a female to a male front voice or making the transition from jazz school to folk music, The Log Drivers seek to continually advance the music that they play and keep experimenting with the versatility of its style.

“A lot of people want to canonize this kind of music and put it in a museum and that’s the quickest way to kill the music,” Murray concludes. “Some of the songs we recorded are a hundred years old, and we didn’t record them because they’re traditional songs, we play and reworked them because they’re great songs and that’s what should matter.”

By Christopher Schieman - Christopher Shieman - Beatroute Magazine

"Traditional meets Contemporary"

Traditional Celtic music gets a contemporary boost from three friends who met while studying for degrees in jazz music.

The virtuosos met at Humber College in Toronto and immediately recognized a sense of musical kinship. From there, Julie Fitzgerald, who has gone on to become a two-time Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion; Spencer Murray, the first Canadian in five years to quality for the All Ireland Championships in flute; and guitar master Nate Douglas began having jam sessions at each other's houses and soon made the switch to Celtic music. However, the trio has added its own flavour to the traditional genre, infusing elements of rock and jazz into their original melodies.

The Log Drivers didn't want its self-titled debut to simply mimic the sounds of those who have come before them in traditional Celtic music. The original compositions display maturity and musicianship the belies the group's young age, and when the trio does try its hand at traditional tunes, it's always with its own voice, rather than mimicking what's been done.

"There's a lot of really strict traditionalists in the genre that would—and have—said about some of the stuff that we've done that it's diluting the music or killing the tradition," Murray says of the band's style.

Celtic music has had a place in Canadiana for decades, and Murray attributes its longevity to a process of natural selection. The Log Drivers have been known to play tunes that are 200 to 300 years old, but Murray says that song selection has more to do with the fact that these are great songs.
"Someone wrote a great tune and the next generation of players picked the tunes they like, got rid of the tunes they didn't and wrote some of their own. There's always a process of renewal in the music that keeps it healthy and alive and that's really important," he adds.

This process is what has brought The Log Drivers to its debut, which is a collection of mostly instrumental tracks, aside from three with vocals, that was encouraged throughout its production by renowned Irish flute player Lorette O'Reid, who now lives in Toronto. The Log Drivers also rely on go-to musician fill-ins Lizzy Hoyt on fiddle and Juno Award-nominee Jeremiah McDade on guitar.

The pair will be filling in for Fitzgerald and Douglas at the release show in Edmonton, who are tied up with prior commitments. Fitzgerald often tours with her family's band and as part of Stepcrew, an Irish step dancing troupe. Murray says he's been playing with Hoyt and McDade for some time and looks up to them both as musicians, so despite being sans two band members, The Log Drivers will be alive and kicking in Edmonton. - Meaghan Baxter - Vue Weekly Edmonton

"A Modern Take On An Ancient Music"

EDMONTON - Spencer Murray may be more likely to pull out a flute or a penny whistle when he plays for Toronto’s The Log Drivers, but he still has a soft spot for his first instrument.

“There’s just something about the sound of the full bagpipes,” says Edmonton native Murray, who started learning the instrument at the age of eight. “Nowadays I mostly use Scottish border pipes, because they’re quieter and you can play with fiddle and guitars without overwhelming them, but I still love the war pipes. Nothing compares with the power you can put out with them.”

A graduate of Grant MacEwan University, where he studied saxophone, Murray moved to Toronto three years ago to continue studying jazz at Humber College. There, he started taking lessons from flute player Lorette Reid, and became the first Canadian flute player in more than five years to qualify for the All Ireland Championships. He also hooked up with other musicians who loved Celtic music, and in his growing circle of friends kept hearing about a talented young fiddle player who had left Humber for a year to do some touring.

The Log Drivers developed when Murray finally met the much-spoken-of fiddler, Julie Fitzgerald, and a musical rapport developed. The saxophone was laid aside for flute, whistle and occasional pipes, and they began jamming at each other’s houses. Fitzgerald completed the trio by introducing Murray to her associate, guitarist and vocalist Nate Douglas.

“We were actually neighbours, and we would have sessions together in each other’s homes until the landlord complained,” Murray laughs.

The three started to call each other when potential gigs came up, and developed a common repertoire of traditional numbers. Then they started to work on their own originals, writing together, working out more complex arrangements. Murray reckons that this is when they became an actual band.

“One of the things that was most important to us was that we didn’t want to do an impersonation of traditional Celtic music. For us to play these tunes the same way as people did for hundreds of years makes no sense. There’s no way we’ll ever do them better than the people who originally did them, so we needed to add something of ourselves. In a way we’re trying to advance and contribute to the tradition.”

Of course, some of the players he’s learned from don’t have the same opinion about “advancing” Celtic music.

“We do get that from a few of the older musicians,” Murray admits. “They’ll ask why we feel the need to mix the music up with these things, but as a fiddle friend of mine in Calgary likes to say, ‘Music isn’t a museum’.”

About a third of the songs on their self-titled debut album are originals, with a few numbers by contemporary writers and rearranged older tunes making up the bulk. The record was partially financed through Indiegogo, a website used by artists to fundraise for creative endeavours. The band raised just over $3,800, which allowed them to bring in some impressive heavy-hitters to work on the last stages of the album.

“We had money put aside already, but with the extra we were able to hire mixing engineer Ian Hutchison, who worked with (acclaimed flute player) Michael McGoldrick on his Aurora album, as well as the New Treacherous Orchestra, two of my absolute favourites. We then got Brad Blackwell, who had just won a Grammy for his work on Alison Krauss’s last album, to master it.”

For the Edmonton CD release, Murray has brought in two old friends and musical peers, Jeremiah McDade and Lizzy Hoyt, to step in for Fitzgerald and Douglas, who were too busy with other projects to make the trip across the country.

“It’s tough because Nate and Julie are both getting more and more in high demand. Julie has been the Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion a couple of times, and she gets calls to do things like tour Japan for a month. Nate is also getting lots of calls as a fiddle accompanist. Everyone is committed to this, though; the plan now is to use the record to secure some bigger gigs and put together a tour.” - Tom Murray - Edmonton Journal


The Log Drivers (Self Titled) 2012



With jaw dropping virtuosity and a maturity that belies their ages, The Log Drivers are a new force to be reckoned with on the Canadian folk scene. Their stunning blend of Fiddle, Pipes, Flute, Guitar Step Dance and Vocals creates a sound that has the weight of tradition, the fire of youth and a strong sense of place. These young musicians are taking Canadian Celtic music to places it's never been before.

The band met at Humber College in Toronto where they were all pursuing jazz degrees and they soon found they were kindred spirits musically, getting together in practice rooms after hours to play traditional music from Scotland, Ireland and Canada once everyone else had gone home. They soon found that their jazz training allowed them to do things with folk music that they had never thought of before and the band began to build up a repertoire of completely original music in their compositions and arrangements that was innovative but still deeply rooted in the Celtic tradition. The original compositions the band has written for their debut album clearly show that these musicians are as potent with a pen and paper as they are with a fiddle or flute.

The band is made up of Julie Fitzgerald (2 time Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion) Spencer Murray (First Canadian in 5 years to qualify for the All Ireland Championships on flute) and Nate Douglas (guitarist with Natalie MacMaster) James Law on Drums, Fiddle and Mandolin and Jesse Dollimont on Vocals.

These young musicians, with their powerful performances and incredible writing, are changing the way their generation thinks of Celtic music.

Band Members