Music

Barb Jungr Finds Fresh Depths in the Work of Musical Legends in 'Bob, Brel & Me'

In her recent performance at the Southbank Centre, Barb Jungr shared perfect material for her own genre-defying artistry in the works of Bob Dylan and Jacques Brel.

Barb Jungr: Bob, Brel & Me
Barb Jungr

Absolute

6 Sep 2019 (UK)

Other

In concert at the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room, Barb Jungr mixed Dylan songs, bespoke Brel translations, and performed original material in an exciting, surprising and dramatic show that anticipates her eagerly awaited new album.

The songs of Bob Dylan and Jacques Brel have had an extremely important place in Jungr's repertoire, forming the basis for some of her most beloved albums, including 2000's Chanson: The Space in Between (Linn, 2014) and 2002's Every Grain of Sand (15th anniv. ed., Linn, 2017). It's not too hard to see why: in the complex and demanding music of both artists at their best, Jungr has found perfect material for her own genre-defying artistry, which fuses jazz, cabaret and - whisper it - a bit of punk attitude into a thoroughly unique performance style. A radical, funny and wonderfully physical performer, Jungr runs the emotional gamut as an artist, and the work of Brel and Dylan, with its idiosyncratic qualities of tenderness and rage, and of course, its linguistic richness, provides her with exceptionally rewarding material to mine.

Now, fresh from the success of recent collaborations with American pianist/arrangers Laurence Hobgood (on Shelter from the Storm: Songs of Hope for Troubled Times (Linn, 2016) which, as the title suggests, featured some Dylan-penned tracks) and John McDaniel (on albums of Beatles and Sting songs), Jungr turns to Dylan and Brel again on Bob, Brel & Me, a venture that combines work by her two favourite songwriters with some of her own co-written compositions. The results will be released on an album in the autumn but prior to that Jungr is taking to the road with the material, with the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room on 9th May the second stop on the tour.

The intimate, freshly renovated Purcell Room is an ideal space for Jungr; it's here that she delivered a brilliant Valentine's Day concert in 2015. ("Barb Jungr: My Funny Valentine: Songs for the Wild At Heart, Purcell Room, London", by Alex Ramon, PopMatters, 16 Feb 2015.) What made the new show particularly noteworthy was the accompanying full band: Rod Youngs on drums, Davide Mantovani on bass, and Jamie Safir and Jenny Carr gamely switching between piano and keyboard. It's a rarity to see Jungr perform live with a percussionist and Young's contributions gave a deep, funky sensuousness to the Dylan material in particular, with creative, supple arrangements (care of Safir and Carr) bringing "Mr.Tambourine Man", "One Too Many Mornings", and "Simple Twist of Fate" to fresh, dramatic life.

Robb Johnson's smart and sophisticated new translations of Brel's work, the result both of deep sensitivity to the language of the originals and of negotiations with the Brel estate, yielded their surprises, too. Think you know "Jacky" via Scott Walker's Shuman/Blau-penned English version? Well, think again, as Jungr delivered a much spikier take, prefacing the song with some hilarious remarks about the translation process, which it would be a shame to spoil. The lesser known "The Cathedral" and the classic "To See A Friend Break Down and Cry" were also highlights, radiant moments that connected deeply with the audience. The original material stood up well beside the intensity of these songs, from the wry kiss-off "Rise and Shine" to "Sometimes", a homage to tiger tamer Mabel Stark. "Incurable Romantic" found Jungr at her warmest, an embracing vocal complemented by glorious cascading piano work from Safir.

Jungr promised the audience a surprise towards the end of the show, and this came in the shape of an appearance by the LGBT+ choral group the Fourth Choir, who accompanied her on a charged and urgent version of Brel's "Quand on n'a que l'amour", pointedly translated here as " If We Only Had Love". The follow up, Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire", was even more impressive, the song shot into the stratosphere as a fierce, incantatory piece, Jungr using her full vocal range and the band giving an intense, passionate performance. The mood turned reflective for the beautiful closer "No One Else Could Ever Wear Your Shoes", a tender benediction written by Jungr and Michael Parker (who passed away in 2017) and dedicated to "all those we've loved who've left this planet."

Humane, challenging, funny and restorative, this energising evening found one of the great contemporary chansonnières at her finest.

Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.