Gather Round

Canal Street Tavern Hosts Spikedrivers CD Release Show

By Matt Clevenger

The Spikedrivers

Columbus jazz/bluegrass favorites the Spikedrivers will raise a ruckus in Dayton this weekend, celebrating the release of their new album “Live at Stuart’s Opera House” with a special appearance at Canal Street Tavern on Friday, Dec. 17.

“We love playing Canal Street Tavern,” bassist Steven Fox said in a recent interview. “I wish there was a club like it in Columbus. The atmosphere and setup are great for both the performer and the audience.”

The band has played regularly at Canal Street for the last five or six years, developing a devoted local following and a reputation as one of the most intense live acts around. Already well-known throughout the Columbus area and beyond, the group has released four critically-acclaimed albums, and also tours extensively throughout the East Coast and the Midwest.

Combining elements of jazz, blues, bluegrass, rock and country, the Spikedrivers’ unique sound is infectious but can also be hard to label, even for someone who is in the band. “The sound is all things Americana,” Fox said. “Genre hopping and intermingling hot jazz, bluegrass, country, blues and rockabilly into an infectious whirlwind as potent as corn liquor.”

Formed in Columbus, the group features Fox on upright bass and vocals, singer/songwriter/guitarist Jesse Henry, drummer Nate Anders, guitarists John Boerstler, Steve Sweney and Adam Schlenker, and Megan Palmer on vocals and violin. Many band members divide their time between the Spikedrivers and side projects with other well-known local groups.

Steve Sweney is also known for his work as guitarist in the legendary jam band ekoostic hookah. John Boerstler also plays with the band Hoodoo Soul, while Jesse Henry and Megan Palmer both perform separately as solo artists. Fox and Schlenker also play together in the bluegrass band Fox N Hounds.

“The Spikedrivers started playing in 2003,” Fox said “We’ve been at it almost eight years now. Jesse and I met at an open mic night in Columbus and formed the original group with another guitar player. Over the years the group’s line-up has shifted and expanded, as we found each other and became the band we are today.”

“Jesse is the main songwriter,” he added. “He brings the bare-boned structure of a song to our rehearsals and the rest of us develop the parts that create the feel of the song as a whole.”

Despite their gritty sound and rabble-rousing live show, the group’s members are also highly-skilled musicians, and several teach music when they aren’t touring or recording with the Spikedrivers. “Jesse, Adam and I teach private music lessons,” Fox said. “Nate and Adam teach at the university level.”

Almost all the band’s members have had some kind of formal musical training, Fox said, and most of them also know how to play several different instruments. “Megan does keyboards and so does Nate,” he added. “I play double and electric bass, mandolin, uke and a little piano. Everyone has a few.”

The group draws its unique sound from a wide variety of influences. “It’s all over the map,” Fox said of band members’ favorite artists. “NRBQ, AC/DC, various jazz artists, John Hartford, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Willie Dixon, Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams.”

“John got me hooked on Ry Cooder,” he said. “I’ve been on a Ry Cooder kick for about the last year and a half. But I like all types of music. For me it is about how the music is performed that will determine if it is something I would go back to.”

The Spikedrivers have already released two live albums and two studio albums, and will unveil their new all-acoustic album, “Live at Stuart’s Opera House,” at Friday’s Canal Street Tavern show. The band is also planning to release two additional albums sometime in 2011. “We are planning to release another live CD and starting work on another studio album sometime in the coming year,” Fox explained.

No strangers to the road, the band is also planning several upcoming shows in Dayton, Columbus and other areas. “We enjoy going on the road,” Fox said. “We dig hitting New York and Chicago for the food and music scenes. There’s also this cool resort we play in West Virginia called the Rivermen, where we get to go white water rafting and zip-lining.”

“We typically play Columbus twice a month,” Fox said. “The rest are all out of town. We’ll be playing Dec.18 at Skully’s in Columbus, for anyone who can’t make it out to Canal Street on the 17th. We’ll also be playing a New Year’s Eve show at the Rumba Café in Columbus.”

The Spikedrivers will appear with opening act Kris Hanson, Friday, December 17 at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. First St. Tickets are $7. Doors open at 8 p.m;, show starts at 9:30 p.m. More information can be found online at, or

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