From left: Jakob Folke Ossum, Michael Barrett Donovan, Mikael Jonassen

Transatlantic Americana

Oslo-based American-Norwegian trio Buster Sledge is newly signed with label Heilo and soon to release its first studio album Call Home in May 2022, following up on their self-recorded and self-released debut Spirit (2020). Fiddle, banjo, guitar and three voices are the vehicle for lyrical storytelling against an orchestral backdrop 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, Punch Brothers, Tim O'Brien and John Hartford.

Buster Sledge was the first group to record in the recently recently opened 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 lone rider overlooking a large river-valley in impressionistic swaths of color.

Banjoist Mikael Jonassen, from Bodø in the far north, is Norway's first higher-education certified banjo player. Despite beginning with an electric banjo and playing exclusively fusion jazz, Jonassen currently focuses his efforts on Scruggs style acoustic banjo via the playing of Béla Fleck and has taken several trips to the US to learn from the masters themselves. 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!