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Photograph by Autumn DeWilde
HARPER'S CALLIN': Harper Simon brings a heapin' helpin' of Americana to the Brookdale Lodge on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Simon Says

Harper Simon's star-studded debut was hard-earned

By Adam Joseph

HARPER SIMON, son of Paul, doesn't need to ride on the coattails of his father's fame. With the release of his first solo album, Simon proves he's a capable musician and a gifted songwriter. But that doesn't mean that anything about his solo debut has come easily. Making a 10-track, rock-and-country LP inspired by classic long-play albums like the Stones' Exile on Main Street and the Beatles' Abbey Road turned out to be an arduous task.

"There were lots of obstacles, both mentally and emotionally," says Simon. "It's a lot of work to carry an entire album, and it took a lot longer than I thought."

Though Simon-—who plays the Brookdale Lodge tonight with the Chapin Sisters and Sparrows Gate—has been performing since he was a child, it wasn't until the soft-spoken singer/songwriter hit his 30s that he began crafting his seamless self-titled debut.

"In my heart, making a solo album was something I always wanted to do," Simon says from Los Angeles. "In my 20s, I was satisfied being a supporting musician, but in my 30s it was time to start a solo career."

The album was recorded in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles over a three-year period with an all-star cast of '60s session musicians, including pedal steel player Lloyd Green (the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and multi-instrumentalist Charlie McCoy (Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline). Simon also scored notable guest musicians like Sean Lennon, Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper and his dad. The outcome is a timeless slice of true Americana music.

"Tennessee," one of three songs co-written with Paul, is about Simon's mother. It twangs with fast-paced pedal steel arpeggios and honky-tonk piano. The last song on the album, "Berkeley Girl," is an earnest declaration of love to an old friend; the deep sentiment of Simon's voice glows through a beautifully sparse melody plucked out on acoustic guitar.

Though the legendary players backing Simon on the album aren't touring with him, he has compiled an equally impressive backup band featuring Erik Paparazzi (Cat Power), Russell Simins (John Spencer Blues Explosion), Money Mark (Beastie Boys' keyboardist) and Farmer Dave Scher.

The 37-year-old appears to be on a roll. Simon plans on recording three additional solo albums—each one different—before taking a break. "The next [album] will be darker, dreamier and more psychedelic, with less country," he says.

On the song "Shooting Star," Simon sings, "Someday you'll find out who you are." It's evident from his debut that this is just the beginning of a personal musical journey that will bring him a step closer to finding out who he is with each album he makes.

HARPER SIMON plays Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 8pm at the Brookdale Lodge, 11570 Hwy. 9, Brookdale. Tickets are $12 at (831.338.1300)

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