It's a little hard to believe that a 37-year-old whose first public appearance came on Sesame Street when he was 4 finally released his debut album in 2009. Sure, Harper Simon had been in a band, Menlo Park, and put out a solid record with The Heavy Circles; there were a few other scrapped projects here and there. Still, it's fair to say that Simon's first record is finally out.
Simon arrived at WFUV's Studio-A a bit tired after a long night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in New York City, but he brought with him a good mood and an acoustic guitar. I was delighted to have him in the studio to talk about his self-titled album, which was among my favorites of 2009.
Packed with well-crafted songs and strong melodies, Simon's debut is an ambitious project that brings together both his love of classic folk-pop albums and his current circle of friends. He went old-school Nashville for his backing band, enlisting legendary producer Bob Johnston to gather great session players who used to play with Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield and Patsy Cline, among others. Simon then added pals Sean Lennon, Eleni Mandell and Petra Haden to the project, and Tom Rothrock mixed it. It's an intriguing concept, and they pull it off in a way that both sounds good on record and translates to simple acoustic arrangements such as the ones heard here.