Noted for her stylish interpretations of the music of songwriting giant Bob Dylan, British cabaret singer Barb Jungr returns to his work, this time coupled with another giant, with her newest album, Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. With a fabulous voice dripping with passion and dynamism, she invests their music with the kind of drama fans have come to expect from this dynamic songstress. There have certainly been a good many covers of Cohen and Dylan over the years; Jungr’s ranks with the best of them. Go back to her 2002 Dylan album Every Grain of Sand as well as her covers of individual songs on her many other albums and her vital connection to their work is crystal clear.
Hard Rain showcases 11 songs—six by Dylan, and five by Cohen. She opens with “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and closes the set with a brilliant version of “Chimes of Freedom,” clearly the best of the Dylan covers. Between them she does a bang up job with “Hard Rain,” “Masters of War,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” and “Gotta Serve Somebody.” It is political Dylan with a born again touch.
Fine as her Dylan interpretations are, they pale in comparison with what she does with the Cohen songs. It is almost as though he wrote them with Jungr in mind. Her voice is made for them. With “Everybody Knows,” “Who By Fire,” and “First We Take Manhattan,” hearing Jungr is like hearing them for the first time. She finds their drama and revels in it. On “1000 Kisses Deep” and “Land of Plenty,” her readings bring to mind singers like Nina Simone or even Edith Piaf. She has that kind of intensity.
As Jungr explains in a liner note, she chose the music for the album from the “tougher, philosophical, political songs” of the two men. “There’s something in both writers that transcends the material itself, as though the words and music have powers beyond the paper and the groove, beyond the voice and the piano.” It is this kind of identification with the intrinsic mystical power she finds in the music that accounts for the brilliance of her performance.
Hard Rain is a gem. Jungr takes the music of Dylan and Cohen and makes it glow.
[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00HNXZT6W]