Harrod & Funck

Live

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This third full-length Harrod and Funck CD would prove to be their last prior to Brian Funck's departure. In retrospect, it doesn't seem too surprising that the pair were heading in different directions. By the time Live was recorded at two 1998 concerts, Jason Harrod's songs were drawing increasingly from traditional folk and country (e.g., "Carolina," "Molly") while Funck had moved steadily in the direction of an acoustic art pop sound ("All Fall Down," "Ashes") that tended to be darker, wordier, less accessible, and more challenging than his partner's. But despite the divergence of their styles, Live is ultimately the most successful Harrod and Funck CD at demonstrating why the two worked so well together. This album came on the heels of the eponymous 1997 effort produced by guitarist Ric Hordinski. Hordinski's production, while innovative, de-emphasized the greatest strengths of the combo: their distinctively hypnotic picking and sliding guitar loops and the harmonic blend of Funck's resonant throaty baritone with Harrod's high-pitched Southern tenor. On Live, there is plenty of both; "All Fall Down," for instance, uses harmonies and ambient acoustic guitars to produce an arrangement that is slightly brisker and more sensitive to the song's themes than the studio version. The wistful "Lion Song" is also much improved here by a lighter acoustic touch and a gentle backing by Funck. Live also features several excellent previously unreleased selections. The driving "Come Clean," long a concert favorite, is presented here with an impressive harmonica solo by Harrod. The moving and quirky "'I Will Find C.," a cover of a song by Harrod and Funck's former Wheaton College classmate Peter Beyer, is one of the brightest highlights on the record. There is also an excellent cover of T-Bone Burnett's tribute to Marilyn Monroe, "After All These Years." It somehow seems appropriate that Burnett, one of the most prominent members of the old guard of the so-called "Christian Mafia" (a term used to describe Christian artists whose music is informed by their faith without being constrained by evangelical designs), should be covered by Harrod and Funck. The duo, along with groups like Over the Rhine and Vigilantes of Love, were part of a new generation of the Christian Mafia that admired and emulated "old guard" members like Burnett, Bruce Cockburn, and Sam Phillips. Sadly, Harrod and Funck appear to be the first Mafia casualty. It is of some consolation that Live stands as an important and lasting testament that something special happened when these two talented guitarists played in a room together.

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