Just barely topping the 30-minute mark, Harper Simon's debut LP gives a quick, breezy look at the songwriting skills of Paul Simon's oldest son. Harper, who previously cut his teeth in the cabaret-punk outfit Menlo Park, switches gears for this solo outing, which emphasizes lush arrangements and folksy melodies over Menlo Park's noisy stomp. Of course, the new style also highlights the influence of Harper's father, whose timbre and phrasing are channeled throughout. With its finger-plucked guitar riffs and vocal harmonies, "Berkeley Girl" recalls vintage Simon & Garfunkel, while songs like "The Shine" and "The Audit" feature the same lush, rainy-day folk trappings that his dad helped popularize several decades prior. Harper is a competent songwriter in his own right, but his greatest asset may be the ability to re-create the classic music he grew up with. The fact that he receives assistance from one of the most star-studded backing bands this side of USA for Africa -- including vocalist Inara George, harmonica vet Charlie McCoy, Dobro guitarist Al Perkins, and Highway 61 Revisited producer Bob Johnston -- certainly doesn't hurt, either.
Harper Simon Review
by Andrew Leahey