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Barb Jungr - Waterloo Sunset - Jazzwise

05 April 2004
Ken Hunt

The recent progress and perigrinations of jazz-chansonnier par excellence Barb Jungr have been remarkable. She has already served up two prime and sustaining tranches of work in Chanson: The Space in Between (2000) - examining the songs of Brel, Ferré, Johnson, Porter and their kind - and Every Grain of Sand (2002) - and its genuinely fresh approach to Dylan.

On this album, a goodly number of selections come candy-striped with clown or circus themes. She tackles two 'new' Dylan songs, Like a Rolling Stone and High Water (For Charley Patton) (excellent, but surely Dylan's trickster manifesto Positively Fourth Street would have fitted the quasi-theme better?). High Water is better.

Jungr and her band tackle a handful of songs which might have been said to have previously benefitted from definitive performances. They are the ones that really refresh and refocus the mind. Cathy's Clown, the Everly Brothers' old-time lip-trembler, gets a Western Swing-style treatment with loping guitaristic glissando and a vocal that slides. Richard Thompson's The Great Valerio gets a post-Sid Page violin in the style of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks (though not as bold as Page's on I Scare Myself). Steve Miller's The Joker stretches.

Above all, one song bottles Jungr's otherness when is comes to interpreting a lyric. The unholy chutzpah she displays in covering one of the 20th century's (and London's all-time) greatest songs, Ray Davies' Waterloo Sunset semaphores a brain-fevered, kamikaze instinct. Yet in the moment when she sings the first line she puts the romantic filth into the Thames in a way that only the illegitimate confluence of Ewan MacColl's Sweet Thames, Flow Softly and Dirty Old Town might match. That takes something. Beeline time.


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