Barb Jungr - Live Review - Newbury Weekly News

22 September 2009
Newbury Weekly News
Fred Redwoood

I had a funny moment when I read the flyer for Tell It Like It is - Barb Jungr's new show which she performed at New Greenham Park last Friday. In the small print it read "a musical exploration of war and its after-effects." What was she thinking about? It sounded like theme night at a 1970s students' folk club. I started having after-flashes of Julie Felix oozing sincerity all over Blowing in the Wind and Roy Bailey droning through John the Gun with up-the-worker sermons to follow. It didn't bear thinking about.

I needn't have worried - there was nothing retro-folk or retro anything else about this collection of songs. One of the things we forget about Barb Jungr, mainly because she is so funny, is that she has an enormous knowledge of music. She is an expert on everything from Yoko One, about whom she has written a book, to opera. More important, she treats each form of music with a respect that is untainted by fashion or prejudice. She brought that wisdom to this show with, for example, a superb version of Last Train to Clarkesville, which took on new meaning after she explained that Clarkesville was, in fact, an embarkation point for Vietnam.

The rest of the songs made for an intelligent and original mix, from Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows to Cat Stevens's Peace Train and the best songs were the surprises - Eric Bogle's Flowers of the Forest which had an Armistice Day dignity about it and Brel's The Dove, which made a calm counterpoint to Dylan's relentlessly upbeat Times They are a Changing.

Sadly, Jungr announced during the show that this season will also be her last. For five years she has made the trip down to Newbury, usually accompanied by one of her special guests such as Caroline Nin, Mervynne Stutter, Helen Watson or Phil Jeays - performers who are outrageously talented but who have never quite made the big time. Occasionally, too, she has brought the likes of Mari Wilson and Ian Shaw - top London performers who must have wondered what they had come to as they sniffed the curry in the entrance.

For five years she has found time between her own gigs at venues like Ronnie Scotts and the Café Carlyle in New York (where, incidentally, the New York Times described her as "sensational") to play this residency at the little arts studio up on the common. She will be sorely missed. Catch her while you can.

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