Barb Jungr has a slew of solo and other albums to her name (13 solo, 6 more with Michael Parker, and +/- 20 beyond that, albums she's appeared on) and has come to be known for deconstructions of what she calls 'the new American songbook', a clever coining that's been long sought by cats like me, looking to figure out just what to name the post-Tin Pan Alley oeuvre (and that means, dammit, she beat me to the punch!). Of course, it goes without saying that Dylan and Cohen would be leading figures in that genre, along with Lennon & McCartney and many others, and Jungr's been lavish in her devotionals especially to Dylan. Up to a certain point, Bob himself named Manfred Mann as his foremost interpreter (and if you want to laugh your ass off while doing the Brontosaurus Rhumba, listen to his Earth Band's version of Get Your Rocks Off from the Messin' LP).
Well, ol' Zimmerman's been through the changes, lord knows, so its anyone's guess whom he'd now cite as the best change agents, but regardless, with the release of Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen, Manfred's looking at some rough competition. He just may have to come out of retirement to preserve his crown. Where, though, he took a poppy progrock shine to the catalogue, Jungr favors an interesting blend of folk, jazz, stage, and sometimes even near-madrigal approaches, as mindful of Julie Driscoll, Norma Winstone, and Peggy Lee as Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Sandy Denny, and other chanteuses.
Who by Fire, where you'll locate a particularly strong accent of madrigal, is a gently searing take on Lenny's composition, as riven with wistful intelligence as aching heart and tears, the lament of a meadowlark who's viewed too much of life from her lonely branch above it all, an omniscience that carries its price daily. Then she rushes Dylan's title cut (Hard Rain) as though pursued by the elements themselves, encanting lines over her shoulder while seeking, ahem!, shelter from the storm. Each interluding refrain measures the alcoves stumbled into before the weather front catches up, and it's once more off to seek anew (and Richard Olatunde Baker's percussives are crucial here).
By such subtleties is this collection measured, and one rapidly sees why Jungr in Europe enjoys her reputation as something of an outlaw. Thank God she chose the mellow neon night of Cohen's First We Take Manhattan as the follow-on, 'cause I was out of breath after Rain wound down. The same laid-back atmosphere wraps Bob's Gotta Serve Somebody in velvet for a gratifyingly long 7:15, producer Simon Wallace's lightly Brian Auger-ish Hammond purring alongside, his pianistics twinkling stars above, raindrops between…and I guarantee that once you step out of your reverie as the CD ends, you'll be hunting for more. Hard Rain doesn't just satisfy the senses and brainworks, it also installs a hunger.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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