Album: Harper Simon, Harper Simon (Tulsi Records)

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The Independent Culture

For all its alluring qualities, there's something slightly discomfiting about this debut offering from Paul Simon's son, Harper.

It's as if the lad had spent years locked in a room with only his dad's record collection for company – including, of course, a copious selection of Simon & Garfunkel albums. As the first strains of Harper's voice spill over the hymn-like opener "All to God", it's like you're hearing the essence of both his father's and Art Garfunkel's voices distilled into a single vessel of vocal purity, pristine and alabaster-toned; and so uncanny is the similarity on "Tennessee" I'm convinced it must be a father/son duet. Which is hardly a drawback, in the greater scheme of things – as neither is Harper's employment of the same Nashville sessionmen who played on those classic Dylan, Cohen and Byrds records, plus a few former Elvis sidemen. Simon explicitly wanted to emulate the seamless unity of the classic long-playing record, something he achieves through using only the subtlest embellishments – a discreet woodwind arrangement here, a pedal steel or glockenspiel there – around his acoustic guitar, on 10 songs whose superficial slightness ("I'm simple as a beat, as a melody in C", as he notes in "Wishes and Stars") belies their gentle power.

Download this All to God; Wishes and Stars; The Audit; Tennessee; Berkeley Girl