BARB JUNGR – THE ULTIMATE PERFORMER
Stockport To Memphis is the superb new album from Barb Jungr, one of the world’s foremost interpreters of song. Variously described by critics as magnificent, mesmerising and magical, Barb Jungr has built a formidable reputation as an international live performer and recording artiste. She has perfected the art of interpretation to such a level that listeners are often astonished to discover that well-known songs that they thought they knew have been wonderfully transformed and very often elevated when Barb weaves her magic spell. Her repertoire includes songs by Jacques Brel, Nina Simone, Jimmy Webb, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen amongst many others and she has attracted particular acclaim for her work on the songs of Bob Dylan, which produced two critically-acclaimed albums and a series of sell-out, award-winning transatlantic shows. For four consecutive years (2008 through to 2011) Barb has ranked at the top of Time Out, New York’s best cabaret awards for her shows and in 2008 she also received the Nightlife Award for Outstanding Cabaret Vocalist.
Stockport To Memphis marks a significant new direction for Barb as she has included five of her own songs in the collection, which also features her new arrangements of songs by Sam Cooke, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Rod Argent, Mike Scott, Hank Williams, Tom Waits and, of course, Bob Dylan.
Barb Jungr has never been to Memphis. But as a teenage girl in 1960s Stockport, she nurtured a longing for what it represented; the sweet soul music she danced to in clubs at night, and its sense of a bigger, more beautiful world than the northern industrial town she couldn’t wait to leave (as embodied by the title-track and stunning album opener). The album charts a metaphorical journey, not just Barb’s own route through life and self-discovery but that of others, including her own parents’ escape to the UK from war-torn Europe and her father-in-law, the painter Frank Bowling, who came to the UK from Guyana as a young man.
Barb’s flight from Stockport eventually took her to punk London in 1976, where she began to nurture her career as a singer, going on to form The Three Courgettes in the 1980s, signing to Island Records, touring with Kid Creole and performing alongside Julian Clary, who regularly turns up to Barb’s live shows to this day. Jungr and Parker, her musical partnership with Michael Parker followed. They recorded six albums, including one for Utility Records, the label spearheaded by Billy Bragg and toured extensively, supporting Alexei Sayle along the way. In 1991, at the behest of the British Council, they travelled to Sudan to give a series of workshops – it was a “mind-blowing” trip, which saw them fleeing from a country on the cusp of civil war and on to Cameroon, Tanzania, The Yemen, Sri Lanka and Malawi.
When Jungr and Parker eventually split, Barb embarked on her solo career in earnest.
More recently, Barb has been riding high on the success generated by a series of landmark album releases, including 2010’s acclaimed The Men I Love: The New American Songbook, which included her take on the work of a broad range of American songwriters, from Todd Rundgren to David Byrne and Jimmy Webb to Bruce Springsteen, challenging the notion that a songbook fit for vocal interpretation closed at Cole Porter. All of Barb’s albums have a strong theme, whether she’s presenting what she refers to as “the New American Songbook” on The Men I Love or offering up her take on Simone or Dylan with the albums, Just Like A Woman: Hymn To Nina and Man In The Long Black Coat: Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan respectively. She has been enjoying a series of sell-out runs at home and in the U.S.A., where critics and audiences alike have welcomed the songstress from the north of England into their hearts, relishing her stunning live performances, which hold audiences spellbound. Slick and entertaining to the last she balances her dramatic style of delivery with an innate sense of humour and comic timing. To turn down an invitation to see Barb Jungr perform live is to miss out on a revelatory and uplifting experience.
“Except for Dylan himself on a good night, this is the best way to hear his songs.”
4-stars (The Independent, 5.8.11)
“Empathy is her game and few singers in any genre extend themselves more deeply into the lives of others.” (The NY Times)
Bob Dylan, jazz, northern soul, Nina Simone and continental Europe’s cabaret music perform a subtle dance in Jungr’s consciousness” (The Guardian)
“One of the very best nightclub singers in the world” (Time Out, NYC)
“In 2002, the British singer Barb Jungr released “Barb Jungr sings Bob Dylan: Every Grain of Sand”, which is, as far as I’m concerned, the most significant vocal album of the 21st century thus far”
(The Wall Street Journal, 2011)
Except for Dylan himself on a good night, this is the best way to hear his songs.”
4-stars (The Independent, 5.8.11)
“Widely regarded as one of the foremost interpreters of what she calls ‘the new American songbook’ and central to this is the back catalogue of Bob Dylan.” (The American)
“In concert she hurls herself into her songs, breathing fire into every word…… This intensity was nicely balanced by such boundless wit and charm as could easily have afforded her a stand-up comedy career” (The Sydney Herald)
“Jungr sings Dylan’s words quite beautifully.” (The Herald)
“As a Dylan interpreter, Jungr is right up there with Simone or The Byrds.” (BBC Online)
“brings the same creative capacity for reinterpretation and re-examination that Ella Fitzgerald brought to Cole Porter.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“in concert she hurls herself into her songs, breathing fire into every word…… This intensity was nicely balanced by such boundless wit and charm as could easily have afforded her a stand-up comedy career” (The Sydney Herald)
“The kind of voice that many more should get around to hearing.” (MOJO)
“She (Barb Jungr) now has collected 13 additional Dylan songs into an excellent new album, “The Man in The Long Black Coat,” yet experiencing her in person is even more moving: She forges a truly cosmic connection between singer and songwriter, performer and material, artist and art. (Wall Street Journal)
“…she provides stunning, deeply personal renditions of 13 Dylan classics in which every word shines with crystal clarity.” (New York Post)
“From a fiery, exultant ‘The Times They Are A Changing’ to a silky-soft ‘Sara’ and beyond, Barb gets to the heart of the songs…” (Village Voice)
Links to see Barb performing Dylan’s “Sara”, and also the classic “Trouble In Mind”…….