Barb Jungr – Every Grain of Sand – Record Buyer & Music Collector
There is sufficient interest in perhaps the most sophisticated form of modern song, to have sustained a season of 'contemporary English chanson' last year at London's Bread And Roses auditorium. One of its stars was Barb Jungr, a sort of British 'answer' to Juliette Greco, svelte and spectral high priestess of populare existentiatism.
As Greco did with Serge Gainsbourg, Jungr has chosen to focus on one particular composer over an entire album. Reaction to the overall result depends on a number of variables; among them how precious you are about an artist warping Dylan to her own devices, enunciating clearly lyrics that Bob mumbles in his mesmerically ugly fashion. In this respect, Jungr stresses what I percieved as faults, exemplified by the pretty-but-nothing rhyming couplets that were one aspect of the countrified comeback after Dylan recovered from his broken neck.
She hasn't chosen much from the pre-accident era – or, indeed, much that's particularly obvious: no 'All Along The Watchtower' or 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' – though there's a sensual 'If Not For You' that, thankfully, escapes the Olivia Newton-John orbit, and a 'Tangled Up In Blue' that, in Barb's interpretation of its fragmented intrigue and narrative twists, is as subtle an overhaul as, say, Brian Ferry's 'Hard Rain' wasn't. The same applies to the more obscure 'Not Dark Yet' in which she refrains likewise from over-embroidering its in-built elegance – so much so that it's creeping up on me as the most significant track on a collection that, if there's any justice in the world, ought to elevate Barb Jungr beyond mere cult celebrity.
Barb Jungr answers the question: why Bob Dylan and why now?
I was very aware that Dylan is an icon who engenders in his fans a curious myopia about how his songs are treated – so my only answer to them is that I did it from love of the work as part of an exploration of my art as a singer.
The tracks weren't selected in a pick'n'mix way. As it has always bean with me, I was driven by intuition and a given piece's emotinal resonance. A common thread on this album is one a of spiritual longing and awareness. Also, what makes Dylan a brilliant textual writer is his abilty to bury his jewels in vernacular. What you call 'pretty-but-nothing', I find starkly beautlful.
Most of the tracks on 'Every Grain Of Sand' are non-protest and 'post-accident'. That wasn't a premeditated choice. At first, I thought that I'd be doing stuff from his 'protest' period – because I've been a front-line political performerf or a long time. However, the things I wanted to sing became clear – almost like they selected themselves.