Grace and dan­ger

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - JOE BREEN

our own lives. I think it fair to say that in 1966 Le­ices­ter City-like odds would have been of­fered on such an out­come. But then, Si­mon al­ways has been some­thing of a con­trar­ian, al­beit soft-spo­ken, with that pure choir­boy voice in­formed by a whip-smart po­etic flour­ish. And this slightly abra­sive, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally New Yorker side has be­come more pro­nounced in his grey years.

In 2014 he and his wife, singer Edie Brick­ell, were ar­rested af­ter a row. It was a mi­nor in­frac­tion but this sense of edgi­ness, along with his trade­mark el­e­gant and of­ten beau­ti­ful ren­der­ing of pro­found and search­ing in­quiry into the ways of the world and the plays of the heart, makes his late-ca­reer work all the more in­ter­est­ing. Now 74, he shares his fears about life and af­ter through mu­sic, the “tongue I speak”, as he states on Proof of Love, one of the 11 tracks on this richly re­ward­ing al­bum. He also snarls his im­pa­tience with in­equal­ity, a world di­vided be­tween those who have and those who don’t on the per­cus­sive and ir­re­sistible Wrist­band: “If you don’t have a wrist­band, you don’t get through the door . . .”

Else­where, the African rhythms that lit up his mid-ca­reer slip back into fo­cus for Cool Papa Bell, a song honour­ing an African-Amer­i­can baseball leg­end, and The Were­wolf, an ur­bane, jazzy ex­plo­ration. There is a sim­mer­ing mu­si­cal back­drop for the ti­tle track, which ad­dresses the strug­gles in love and in his mu­sic. He closes with In­som­niac’s Lul­laby, a del­i­cate, prob­ing bal­lad (“Oh Lord, don’t keep me up all night with ques­tions I can’t un­der­stand”) that links his past to the present: a master still at work. paulsi­

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