We caught up with Barb Jungr on the second night of her residence at The Crazy Coqs, an art deco cabaret venue in the heart of London’s West End. She was ostensibly there to promote her new CD, Hard Rain, which we reviewed favourably in mid-August. The latest in her series of themed shows is entitled ‘The Wheel’s On Fire’; she promised the audience a dark evening, drawing heavily on the songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but also showcasing a number of songs that were new to her, but drew on similar themes.
She opened with Dylan’s It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), accompanied only by pianist Simon Wallace. The stripped back arrangement worked a treat, allowing her Jungr’s superb phrasing to come to the fore. This was followed by a medley of the Grateful Dead’s Morning Dew with Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones, an unusual combination that worked surprisingly well. On Cohen’s ode to death, Who By Fire, Jungr was more theatrical, holding the audience in the palm of her hand with her intimate performance.
It wasn’t all darkness in the first set. A strident version of The Times They Are A-Changin’ suggested there were reasons to be more optimistic as we look forward, whilst between songs, Jungr kept the audience entertained with some wonderful anecdotes that lightened the mood. The set closed with two ‘new’ songs, Richard Thompson’s Pharoah (from Amnesia) and Springsteen’s Devil And Dust. Jungr confessed that she hadn’t ‘got’ Springsteen for a number of years, but her heartfelt reading of this song, accompanied by a superb harmonica solo, made a strong case for covering more of his songs in the future.
In the second set, Jungr expanded on the theme of protest. She followed Cohen’s bleak vision form 1992, The Future, with a quite stunning reading of Kern and Hammerstein’s Ol’ Man River, written more than sixty years earlier, demonstrating that despite our attempts to bring about change, that the world is still a work in progress. She also highlighted Dylan’s influence on Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, ending the evening on a note of hope.
The combination of Simon Wallace’s elegant arrangements, which allowed plenty of space for the songs to breathe, the lyricism and control of Jungr’s singing, and the intimacy of the venue made for a quite magical evening. She will be performing at The Crazy Coqs through the end of this week, before bringing her show to New York in late October. Catch her if you can.