For six weeks at all times of day, in every weather and circumstance, Viewfinder has made me feel good, and still does. I like it best driving along I-10 through the desert among distant rings of navy, red and smoke-colored mountains, with fluffy clouds covering a good third of the sky. I imagine a Pullman parallel, pacing speeding rows of sorghum, and the occasional landmark silo tiled in blue, all under a rolling carpet of gentle rain.
There is no name for this music. It could not exist if there had not been jazz, but it isn’t jazz. There is fingerstyle picking on every kind of guitar — nylon string, dobro, electric, slide, acoustic and electric bass, lap steel. There is upright bass and whistling, accordion and mountain dulcimer, e-bow and clavionine. There is the occasional atonality. There are themes. There are electronic effects. But how to rationalize into even that broad context the subtle sensuality of “Isla Mujeres”? It could be an antique Spanish harpsichord waltz in the hands of an accomplished back porch ensemble with the pop sensibilities of the Vulgar Boatmen.
Track for track, Viewfinder is the most consistently beautiful record I’ve owned since Andres Segovia Plays, but most days only side one of the Segovia record compares, since side two is devoted to contemporary pieces that now occasionally strike me as jarring. Viewfinder is at once contemporary and ageless, redolent of 21st-century references, yet calming and spiritual as a stand of ancient redwoods. It seems to stand alone as a lighthouse reminder that there is terra firma in the sea of daily confusion and stress, and that beauty can be distilled even from the jangled energy and rampant technology of our times.