The Covid pandemic prompted many songwriters to ponder mortality. For Paul Simon, those musings manifested Seven Psalms. Few pop acts can tackle such lofty themes so earnestly. Call it Paul Simon’s letter to God. This alluringly quiet album was recorded on solo acoustic guitar and other acoustic instrumentation, and is performed largely by the 81-year-old Simon. British vocal ensemble VOCES8 contributes choral elements while Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell, lends her voice on a couple tracks. The album opens with a solemn evocation to the Lord—a nod to the family of man, in which Simon ruminates on “the great migration” and evokes “tribal voices.” Exploring both the spiritual and natural worlds, the inner and outer realms, that psalm sets the tone for a meditation on Simon’s place within the river of time and humanity’s connection to the cosmos. He later reflects candidly on “a life of pleasant sorrows” that “broke me like a twig in a winter gale.” He frowns upon fame (“Everyone’s naked, there’s nothing to hide”) and the vagaries of fortune (“We’re all walking down/The same road”). And he bargains with death (“Children, get ready/It’s time to come home”). Seven Psalms finds Simon steeped in mysticism and still searching.
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