Thursday, April 19, 2012

Barb Jungr: The Man in the Long Black Coat

Bob Dylan's songs are so closely meshed with Bob Dylan's voice that the idea of a cabaret chanteuse taking them on is like tomato ice cream, both odd and intriguing. Award-winning British singer Barb Jungr is a big Dylan fan (in the way that the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground), but she is also an original artist on her own terms, and she's willing (and able) to take Dylan's songs to places they've never been (and possibly never expected to go).

In her current show at the Metropolitan Room, Jungr covers the famous songs (a slow, thoughtful "It Ain't Me, Babe"; a spirited "The Times They Are a-Changing) and the less well know (a jazzy "Trouble in Mind" from Dylan's gospel period, with an exciting piano solo by the excellent Tracy Stark). She changes tempos, sometimes more than is good for the song (in her too-slow take on "Like a Rolling Stone," her relationship with the beat feels arbitrary at best).

Jungr's voice ranges from simple and sweet to growly, and she's fond of sliding along notes in an effect that works better in some songs than others. She is hammy, but not in a bad way. Rather than it being an insult, hamminess is her genre, and she does it well. The important thing is that she gives each and every song everything she's got to give. (And she plays a mean harmonica.)

Jungr's colorful flowered dress over black tights and her reddish hair framed with blonde give her a nicely quirkly mien that works well with her sometimes very funny patter. (She looks quite different in person than in the picture accompanying this review.) Her discussion of Dylan's "deeply opaque" lyrics is quite interesting and well-expressed. For example, she says that he provides "forensic analysis of the very bowels of the human condition." And she's no sycophant. Her story about Dylan and Joan Baez expresses disappointment in Dylan (albeit with an ultimate unwillingness to judge him).

An odd thing about Jungr's performance is the amount of time she spends not making eye contact with anyone in the room. She stares into the middle distance, over the audience's head, which distances her from her listeners. When she does make eye contact, the connection adds much to her performance.

The bottom line? She is never uninteresting.

(center-ish table; press ticket)

1 comment:

jp said...

Bottom lline is that "review" is the most inacurate thing I read about Barb Jungr and her craft.