Album reviews: Barb Jungr

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The Guardian writes as follows:  Barb Jungr Hard Rain (Kristalyn).

Having established herself as one of the most imaginative of Dylan interpreters, Barb Jungr here extends her expertise to incorporate the Leonard Cohen catalogue, combining six songs from Dylan’s protest period with five of Cohen’s intriguing, compassionate reflections.

It’s a masterclass in the value of interpretive liberty, with songs transformed in almost revelatory manner. Cohen’s commemorative “Who By Fire” acquires a brooding menace  in alluring guise, becoming a death-song delivered as by a stealthy serpent. And the alliance of Clive Bell’s shakuhachi flute with Simon Wallace’s jazz piano arrangements opens up “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War”: in the former, the yearning breath of woodwind subtly emphasises the wistful air of battered hope in Jungr’s inflections, while the latter becomes a coolly desolate declamation, rather than a vengeful diatribe.

Likewise, the undulating piano of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” helps lubricate her tone of determination tempered with despair, and the languid treatment of “First We Take Manhattan” replaces the military manner of Cohen’s original with a dreamer’s fantasy.

It’s not always successful: the jaunty delivery of “Everybody Knows” underplays its mordant irony, and the urgent flood of “It’s Alright Ma” doesn’t really lend itself to Jungr’s blithe intonation. Better by far is “Chimes of Freedom”, which offers an elegant expansion of the song’s blend of spartan tone and florid poetics.

The best of the Cohen interpretations utilise the compassion in Jungr’s voice, particularly “Land of Plenty” and “1000 Kisses Deep”, the latter’s mélange of desire and despair beautifully captured in the quiet, intimate treatment.  As with the album generally, it’s a subtle balance of hot and cold, a work of fiery cool.

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