When it´s mentioned to Harper Simon that he´ll be playing at Pittsburgh´s Andy Warhol Museum, he noticeably brightens.
He starts talking about Warhol, the 1960s and the differences between the cultural figures who emerged from the East Coast and West Coast back then.
´I know it has nothing to do with my record,´ he said. ´I´m just more interested in talking about them than I am talking about myself.´
Left unsaid is the fact that a close relative of Simon´s was himself a pivotal figure back in those days. The 37-year-old is the son of Paul Simon - ´the child of my first marriage,´ as the elder Simon sang in ´Graceland´ - and is embarking on his own musical career with the release of his self-titled debut album.
Clocking in at a concise 30 minutes and featuring appearances from Harper´s father, Sean Lennon (who, of course, knows a thing or two about being the child of an icon), longtime Elvis Costello keyboard player Steve Nieve and a host of veteran Nashville session musicians, ´Harper Simon´ flashes back to Simon and Garfunkel at points, but also to classic 1960s albums Simon holds up as inspirations, such as the Byrds´ ´Sweetheart of the Rodeo´ and Bob Dylan´s ´Blonde on Blonde.´
In fact, a handful of songs on ´Harper Simon´ are produced by Bob Johnston, the 77-year-old who produced ´Blonde on Blonde,´ along with three Simon and Garfunkel albums and discs by Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen and Willie Nelson.
´I think I dragged him out of semi-retirement,´ Simon said from his New York home. ´I just got interested in the idea of coming down to Nashville and playing with a couple of the players ... who were around in the ´Blonde on Blonde´ era.´
If it often sounds like something that´s been sitting in a tape archive for four decades, ´Harper Simon´ also recalls the heyday of vinyl with its relatively short running time. Simon believes that too many discs have been clogged with filler in the compact-disc era.
´When you try to make a great album, you´re trying to have every song be as good as every other song,´ he said. ´The album is quite short, but I thought I had fulfilled my contract with the listener.´
A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Simon played guitar on his father´s ´Graceland´ tour when he was 14, and more recently lived in London and played in the psychedelic rock band Menlo Park.
When asked if being the ´son of´ was a blessing or a curse, Simon said it was ´mostly a curse.´
´Not in my personal life, because I love my dad and we get along well. To the rest of the world, maybe a curse.´
Then, he added, ´You could put, ´He said, laughing.´´
By Brad Hundt, Staff writer