[11 January 2010]
If ever the term “chip off the old block” applied to a second-generation pop artist, it would in the context of Paul Simon’s son, Harper. The phrasing and tone by which the young Simon sings is uncannily reminiscent of dear old dad, but that’s where the comparisons stop. For his long-awaited solo debut, Harper employed producer Tom Rothrock, whose time helming those classic Elliott Smith albums really accentuates the late indie icon’s influence on Simon’s music. Though only a half-hour in length, this self-titled release is packed with amazing harmonies and witty lyrics, augmented by a thick guest list of such prolific pals as Sean Lennon, Petra Haden, Yuka Honda, Inara George, Aaron Espinoza of Earlimart, longtime Elvis Costello compatriot Steve Nieve, and even papa Paul, who shares co-writing credit on a couple of songs. However, the highlight of Harper Simon is the four tracks he recorded in Nashville with legendary Columbia Records house producer Bob Johnston and a historic backing band consisting of session players like Charlie McCoy, who played on Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline, and pedal steel master Lloyd Green from the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, not to mention Tennessee studio titans Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano and bassist Mike Leech. Harper Simon crafts one of the most enjoyable and understated records of the year with his eponymous debut, and one can only hope he breaks the 30-minute mark for the follow-up.