Sometimes, when faced with an album the reviewer likes and appreciate the artistry involved, it is challenging to describe the work when it doesn’t really fit anywhere. That’s the case with Indoor Vistas, the latest effort from Ethan Sherman.
From the stunning cover art to the first-class picking, it’s all enjoyable — but it doesn’t fit into a slot. Maybe just using Sherman’s own words is the best bet: “a pandemic-fueled surrealist take on the instrumental possibilities of the classic bluegrass ensemble, mingled with dreamlike guitar-orchestra interludes that take you to another planet.”
Indoor Vistas is an instrumental with bluegrass musicians and instruments, but it isn’t exactly traditional bluegrass. It’s original and it is always difficult to talk about all-instrumental albums, but this is one that would be perfect to let play while writing or working or just relaxing or having friends over for dinner and I mean that in the best possible way.
Pitching in on the album are fiddler Avery Merritt (from Sierra Hull’s band), mandolinist Thomas Cassell (from Circus No. 9), Steve Martin Banjo Prize winner Matt Davis and Dobro player Drew Taubenfeld (from Dwight Yoakam’s band). Maybe seeing those bands and names helps offer some description of what to expect.
Sherman handles guitar duties and takes up a variety of instruments on the album’s interludes. He’s got a handful of previous projects and worked with a variety of musicians across genres. This project was recorded at his Los Angeles home.
Sherman said he started writing the tunes for “an imaginary band” in the first month of the pandemic lockdown. Instrumentals are often considered as a “whole” and not so much as individual tracks — ordering is essential and it was done exceptionally well on this effort.
With that said, “Sunrise,” “Cup & Porch” and “Shakertown” are among the most fun, but it’s an all-around good listen.