Fiddle, banjo, guitar and three voices are the vehicle for lyrical storytelling against an orchestral background anchored in the acoustic music traditions of the United States. Hailing from northern California, lead vocalist and songwriter Michael Barrett Donovan mixes themes from personal experience with folk and country music archetypes to breathe new life into time-tested song structures. Banjoist Mikael Jonassen and guitarist Jakob Folke Ossum both share a thorough appreciation for the fundamentals of bluegrass music, clear melodies and harmony-singing through the lens of being trained jazz musicians. In eleven tracks, Call Home tips its hat to artists such as Norman Blake, The Punch Brothers, Tim O’Brien and John Hartford.
Buster Sledge was the first group to record in the recently relocated Globus Studio of Sjur Lyseid (Little Hands of Asphalt) and his influence from behind the mixing board pushed the band into a slightly-augmented acoustic sound with more streamlined arrangements which is a suiting duet with the album art by William Hay that realizes a scene of a rider overlooking a large river-valley in impressionistic swaths of color.
Banjoist Mikael Jonassen, from Bodø in the far north, is Norway’s first and only higher-education certified banjo player. Despite beginning with an electric banjo and playing exclusively fusion jazz, Jonassen currently focuses his efforts on Scrugg’s style acoustic banjo and the playing of Bela Fleck and has taken several trips to the US to learn from the masters. Jakob Folke Ossum, jazz-guitarist turned flat-picking aficionado, discovered the sound of acoustic flat-picking through Tony Rice and Bryan Sutton and meticulously taught himself from records and videos. Fiddler Michael Barrett Donovan made a living as a musician in New York City doing a master’s in classical composition while touring with a Grateful Dead tribute band. The three met in a comment section on a bluegrass forum after Donovan moved to Norway in 2019. The rest of the story you’ll have to ask them at a show sometime. Buster Sledge has been on stage in many small venues in southern Norway, don’t miss them the next time they come to town!