"Thanks for hanging in there through my mini-meltdown."

Jason Harrod is playing the legendary Club Passim in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wipes sweat from his forehead (and was that a tear?), then leaves his hands on either side of his head, like he's just run a sprint and needs to catch his breath.

At 6'2", the 41-year-old songwriter dwarfs the already small stage at a venue where Joan Baez and Bob Dylan hung out in the 1960s. Tonight he's in a pair of dark jeans and an eggplant button-up, which haphazardly hangs open beneath his guitar strap. The strap holds a handmade Lowden 032c, marked by a piece of graffiti: Pete Seeger's autograph.

The "mini-meltdown" wasn't a meltdown, in fact, not even a "mini" one: Harrod forgot the words to one of his old songs—not entirely uncommon for singer-songwriters whose careers span three decades. "My spirit's willing, but my mind . . . ." he trails off.

After playing a full set from his third solo record, Highliner (Lincoln City Records), accompanied by a drummer and bassist, Harrod treats the 90 or so fans gathered to a solo acoustic set featuring songs from the earlier days. The crowd is virtually sitting on top of each other, leaning into the stage, but the intimacy is part of what makes Club Passim special.

Tonight the room is brimming with longtime Harrod devotees who have been following his career since the early 1990s, when he was just a kid out of Wheaton College and one half of the folk duo Harrod & Funck. He and Brian Funck moved from Illinois to Boston, when the folk scene was experiencing something of a renaissance; Patty Griffin, Tracy Chapman, and Peter Mulvey all got ...

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