Barb Jungr - Man in the Long Black Coat Live in US - Woman Around Town

I'm an old fashioned purist. If interpretation is not in service of lyrics, I don't care how well a performer sings. I ‘m therefore doubly surprised and delighted to discover the splendid entertainer Barb Jungr (I know I'm late) who not only communicates with fine voice and style, but has rethought the songs of Bob Dylan with originality grounded in the writing and intention. "I didn't come to Bob Dylan in my first flush," she tells us," I was a Motown girl. I'm a born again Bob Dylan person." Discovery out of context may be pivotal to her unique perspective.

Man in the Long Black Coat is beautifully researched and crammed with sharp humor. Jungr is extremely likeable. She inhabits songs which seem to then control her expressive face and body. Dylan's folk and gospel periods are exemplified, sometimes as ballads where the original recordings were folk rock. Numbers tilting towards blues and jazz work with fresh musicality.

"What Dylan's particularly good at for me is the dark hole of love. It's full of passion, rage, jealousy and fury." Observations about relationships in the author's life are bright and informing. We learn about the woman on the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" and are offered an insightful point of view on his time with Joan Baez. A rendition of "Sara," apparently written for his wife during their divorce, is extremely moving. Jungr almost keens when she sings it, one open-handed arm on her knee, rocking slightly back and forth. "...you must forgive me my unworthiness..." Examples of Dylan's quintessentially male psyche ring smart and true. A distinctly Spanish influenced arrangement of "Things Have Changed" is exhibit A. Tracy Stark effectively comes in on the chorus.

Jungr cuts to the quick. "It Ain't Me, Babe" is interpreted as "I've gone off you...there's somebody (else) in my house, my bed." Softer lyrics have a trill, consonants bend. Piano arpeggios provide a compelling undertow.

Vocal clarity makes selections ring with pith and meaning of which even we Boomers may not have been fully aware. The iconic "Times They Are a' Changin," "Like a Rolling Stone," and the anthem-like "Forever Young" on which the audience comes in with clarion cry, join lesser known numbers like the beautiful title song, and "Blind Willie McTell" during which Jungr sings some pristine acapella before the bump-de-ump piano rhythmically rips in. Variety with balance is in effect.

The singer's middle range vocals are equally confident whether phrasing is velvet or raw, punctuated attitude. She's able to convey sweetness as well as anger, sing a single word in ten notes, and has seemingly effortless control over the longest, most intricate lines imaginable. Jungr ably scats and plays an enthusiastic harmonica. At full throttle, she's enthralling.

Tracy Stark's vocal harmonies are a welcome addition to her skilled accompaniment.

Woman Around Town
26 October 2011