«Fengselsfugl», the title of the sophomore album of Norwegian guitarist Trond Kallevåg Hansen, and means prison bird in English, but its atmosphere is far from suggesting close, stuffed spaces blocked by thick concrete walls. This album comes close to the cinematic, wide-open American folk-blues landscapes of Ry Cooder and Bill Frisell (in his country-ish side) or the Hawaiian folk slack key tradition of guitarists like Joseph Spence and Ray Kane, but spiced with somber Nordic melancholia. His label, Hubro Music, even calls Kallevåg’s music cinematic Nordicana.
«Fengselsfugl» was inspired by Kallevåg’s deeply religious grandparents and their strange prayer house music in the small rain-filled west coast town of Haugesund that sounded – according to Kallevåg – a bit like Hawaiian guitar-music or slack key. Another source of inspiration was Kallevåg’s work with Oslo’s prison inmates. He says that the prisoners’ stories and experiences inspired him to portray self-experienced moods of his encounters with societies considered to be next to the “normal”, ones that he saw as similar to the prayer house. Kallevåg researched prison songs or broadside ballads written by some famous Norwegian prison birds from the 1800s who were national celebrities in their time. These songs were often about famous people, and the famous prison birds of Norway served the entire Norwegian people with self-composed ballads They created myths about their heroic and exciting lives.
As on his previous album, «Bedehus & Hawaii» (Hubro, 2019), Kallevåg collaborates with fellow-guitarist Sundstøl, and recorded «Fengselsfugl» at Sundstøl’s Studio Intim. The core group that recorded «Bedehus & Hawaii» – Kallevåg, Sundstøl, violinist Adrian Løseth Waade, double bass player Alexander Hoholm and drummer Ivar Myrset Asheim is augmented now by keyboards player David Wallumrød.
The ten instrumental pieces suggest at first listening leisured and lyrical, front porch guitar picking. But Kallevåg’s clever arrangements, as well as his unique interplay with Sundstøl, adds to these melodic soundscapes-stories subtle, more experimental layers, comprised of carefully nuanced sounds of non-traditional instruments like musical glass and saw, or field recordings and electronic sounds inspired by Arne Nordheim and Helge Sten.
The beautiful and engaging guitar duet on «Amerikabåten» or «Brevet» (the latter composed with Sundstøl) stresses how Kallevåg’s detailed stories and emotional drama fall naturally into place, and sound intimate and moving. The ironic «Cowboy og Indianer» injects a playful aroma to the somber atmosphere, and the melancholic «Porten» and «Levnedsløp» sound as irreverent hymns. The last, title piece proves again that no one tells such inspired musical stories like Kallevåg.
Trond Kallevåg (g, elec, field recordings), Adrian Løseth Waade (vio), Geir Sundstøl (g, pedal steel, harm), David Wallumrød (p, Wurlitzer, Arp Solus, clavinet, Minimoog, Logan strings), Alexander Hoholm (b), Ivar Myrset Asheim (dr, chimes, perc, musical saw, glass)