Matt Flinner is a talented mandolin player, Todd Phillips a fine bassist and award-winning producer; on this, the former's first and all-instrumental solo album, they're joined by mighty guitar man David Grier, dobroist Jerry Douglas (three cuts), Mike Marshall on bouzouki (two cuts) and an assortment of fiddlers (Stuart Duncan, Tim O'Brien, Darol Anger). With those kinds of chops at hand, and with Flinner's budding talents as a writer, this ought to be a lively album of what's often called new acoustic music. But while it's exceedingly tasteful and even tasty, lively it isn't.
Part of the problem is the pacing. Uptempo numbers with a bluegrassy backbeat rigidly alternate with more meditative pieces, while almost every tune, fast or slow, starts with a sort of mood-setting head before launching into the body of the song. Furthermore, the tunes, while nicely crafted, just aren't that memorable; they function more as frameworks to show off the fine picking than as melodies to linger in your mind's ear after the CD has stopped playing. That's a common problem with instrumentals, especially of what Phillips calls the "contemporary-acoustic-string-jazz-folk-bluegrass" style, but it can be overcome, as Grier showed on his awesome Lone Soldier (produced by Duncan in 1996). This time around, it just doesn't happen.
That's not to say The View From Here doesn't yield up some pleasures; it does. But unless you're a Flinner fan, or a completist when it comes to the other pickers, or you're looking for a little spacegrass to mellow out with while you focus on some other pastime, chances are those rewards won't be enough of a payoff. Flinner and the rest can do, and have done, better, and surely will do so again.