California guitarist Ethan Sherman has announced his new album Indoor Vistas, a dynamic and diverse collection out March 4 that mingles new music for bluegrass band with guitar- orchestra fantasias that transport the listener to imaginary places. Indoor Vistas is both a celebration of community collaboration and a “pandemic record” sculpted from scratch in a quiet room for months on end, and offers a surrealist take on the possibilities of the classic bluegrass ensemble.
It was produced by Ethan at home in Los Angeles, and features contributions from musicianslike Avery Merritt (Sierra Hull), Thomas Cassell (Circus No. 9), Matt Davis (Steve Martin Banjo Prize winner), Drew Taubenfeld (Dwight Yoakam) and more.
In Ethan’s words:
“I spent the first month or so of lockdown writing new tunes every day. What else was thereto do? Eventually, I picked out some favorites from the batch I’d accumulated to arrange for an imaginary band. At this point, I thought when lockdown would ease up, I’d book a live recording session, and I’d get some picking buddies in a room to get this stuff recorded “for real”. However, as 2020 wore on, it became clear that that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I reached out to many of the same friends, asking if they would contribute some playing remotely. I was so inspired by what everyone added to what were originally demos that I started rethinking what the form this music could take: was it something worth sharing?
Around the same time, I was beginning to have fun in the sandbox of my newly expanding home studio, composing miniature scores to random public domain films and uploading them to Instagram. This was a completely different approach to music-making than arranging new string-band tunes; it was more about maximizing the tools– acoustic, electric, processed and everything in between– I had available, and painting wildly on impulse with them.
The music started to all feel surreal to me. It’s close to a reality I recognize, but it never quite gets there, veering into some reconstructed hyper-fabrication of it, like when you’re watching a network sitcom but the TV is too high-definition and the frame rate is too fast. I began to see how all this stuff could be a record on its own merits, a unique and personal document of this strange time in our lives. Fast forward a little, and here’s Indoor Vistas."
Hailed by no less than Julian Lage as “a shining light of our community”, Ethan Sherman hears his roots music not as a narrowly defined throwback aesthetic, but as a potent home base on which he’s quietly been building a singular perspective as a player and composer. Past creative projects have included leading the intrepid electric-guitar trio showcased on 2017’s Building Blocks (which JazzTrail called “an auspicious debut from a talented young guitarist that shows... potential to do even greater things in the future”), as well as EPs as part of a band performing the music of Ornette Coleman on bluegrass instruments, cheekily titled The Shape of Grass to Come. His last release prior to Indoor Vistas was a 2019 EP of guitar duets with Ben Garnett (Missy Raines), Stereoscope.
As a sideman, he’s backed up indie and Americana songwriters like Harrison Whitford (playing on his latest album Afraid of Nothing), Johanna Samuels, and Lydia Luce, performed with trailblazing guitar legends like Nels Cline and Robert Fripp, and even toured with pop starlet Ava Max.
Indoor Vistas is out March 4, with singles & live videos premiering in January and February.