If you go
What: Rob Drabkin
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030
Cost: $12-$14
bouldertheater.com
This Saturday at the Boulder Theater, Rob Drabkin delivers the music of Paul Simon with the hair of Art Garfunkel.

The Denver singer/songwriter and his notable ‘fro will play all of Simon's most successful album, Graceland, along with original music. The show serves as a release party for Drabkin's album of live Graceland covers, which he recorded in January.

“We did this format in January at the Bluebird Theater and literally a few days before the show I decided it would be a good idea to record it,” Drabkin said. “[Toy Box Recording] brings out a live recording truck, so for the whole show there's a mail truck looking vehicle sitting out in the alley.”

Drabkin said he's been a Paul Simon fan for years and the rhythm-heavy singer/songwriter style of his own music fits perfectly with Simon's. In the past, he already had one Simon cover in his repertoire that always went over well with audiences. He also knew two more Graceland songs from seventh grade band. The rest fell together from there.

“That idea kind of came about -- we used to cover 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes,' and that was our one go-to cover because it was a blast to play, with a big drum solo. It was a dance party hit we would do,” Drabkin said. “All of a sudden I realized I already knew how to play three or four songs on the Graceland record.”

But tackling the famous record proved to be a challenge. The elements of rock and pop are in Drabkin's comfort zone, but the album is also heavy in South African styles, like mbaqanga. “Homeless,” which features Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the original Simon version, was the biggest challenge. Many of the lyrics are in Zulu.

“I was like, ‘Woah we're going to have to skip this one,' when we did this in January,” Drabkin said. “I was looking up ways to do it, dissecting all the syllables, and I came up with a solo version. And the vocalist that I work with on the show -- we were able to make our own arrangement of it. That was the biggest challenge, but it's a beautiful one.”

The sheer enormity of Graceland also made it a complex project. The album credits include dozens of other musicians and each song requires a large band.

“The songs are really hard to pull off. I mean, there's a lot of players on the Graceland record,” Drabkin said. “There's the Ladysmith Black Mambazo parts, and accordion players and a horn section. There's everything on there and there's a realization that I have the players and the means to do that.”

It's not all so daunting, though. Some of the songs were much easier to learn and Drabkin has been having fun playing them.

We recently had Rob stop by the Colorado Daily and Daily Camera offices to record a few songs and do an interview for our new video series, Second Story Garage. Check it out at secondstorygarage.com.
“I think boy in 'The Boy in the Bubble' was kind of the most fun to learn,” he said. “At first glance, it seemed like it'd kind of be an easy song to do. The lyrics of that song are really powerful -- just a big reflection on the human condition ... I was really kind of getting into those lyrics.”

All told, that's the big draw for Drabkin and for audiences. Graceland was Simon's biggest hit, going platinum several times and earning a spot on many critics' lists of greatest records.

“It's a lot of fun. These songs are a lot of fun to play,” Drabkin said. “I've always been a huge Paul Simon fan. Every time I hear one of his songs or perform one of his songs, I'm like, ‘Huh. It just can't get better.' His lyrics are so good and his melodies are so good.”