Paul Simon Confronts Dying, Profoundly, on ‘Seven Psalms’


Simon begins the album in his most informal tone. Over calmly exact and rhythmically versatile guitar selecting, he sings, “I’ve been occupied with the good migration.”

Virtually instantly, it turns into clear that the migration is from life to dying, a transition the singer is getting ready to make himself. He’s occupied with time, love, tradition, household, music, eternity and God, striving to stability skepticism and one thing like religion. “I’ve my causes to doubt/A white gentle eases the ache,” Simon sings in “Your Forgiveness.” “Two billion heartbeats and out/Or does all of it start once more?”

Simon’s songwriting has by no means been significantly spiritual. Over time, he has drawn on gospel music for songs like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Loves Me Like a Rock,” which convey spiritual imagery to secular relationships, and his 2011 album, “So Lovely or So What,” had touches of Christian imagery — but in addition imagined “The Afterlife” as one final forms, the place arrivals must “Fill out a type first/And then you definitely wait in a line.”

“Seven Psalms” is extra humble and awe-struck. Its refrains return to, and work variations on, the album’s opening track, “The Lord.” As within the psalms of the Bible — which, as Simon notes in “Sacred Harp,” had been songs — Simon portrays the Lord in sweeping methods: wondrous and terrifying, each protector and destroyer, typically benign and typically wrathful. The Lord, Simon sings, is “a meal for the poorest, a welcome door to the stranger.” Then he turns to naming Twenty first-century perils: “The Covid virus is the Lord/The Lord is the ocean rising.”

A lot of the music appears like solitary ruminations: Simon communing along with his guitar, which has been the subtly virtuosic underpinning of most of his lifetime of songs. As his fingers sketch patterns, he latches onto melody phrases after which lets them go, teasing at pop buildings however quickly dissolving them. And round him, at any second, sounds can float out of the background: further supportive guitars, the eerie microtonal bell tones of Harry Partch’s cloud-chamber bowls, the jaunty huffing of a bass harmonica and, within the album’s closing moments, the voice of his spouse, Edie Brickell.


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