Barb Jungr – Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (2014)

Barb Jungr has a powerful tool in the box — and that is her voice. Combine this with the powerful songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and a group of good musicians, and you have something which has the potential to blow your mind. So, Barb sets high expectations and this album does not disappoint.

Her forthcoming album Hard Rain, due April 1, 2014 via Krystalyn Records, takes the songs of Dylan and Cohen and turns them into memorable Jungr vehicles. The album opens with Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which is given the Jungr treatment and turned into a song of sweet melancholy. Cohen and Sharon Robinson’s “Everybody Knows” follows, and the joy here is you can hear the words clearly and Barb gives them the importance they deserve.

Cohen’s “Who By Fire” and “First We Take Manhattan” are next, taking your heart by storm with Barb’s unique take on them. Dylan’s “Masters of War” opens with ethereal Shakahachi, a Japanese end-blown flute, followed by Barb’s accusative vocals which do justice to the song’s meaning. “It’s Alright Ma” (Dylan) is more up-beat but the words are given clarity and distinction by Barb.

“1000 Kisses Deep” (Cohen/Robinson) is beautiful and emotive yet has an underpinning hardness which weaves its way into the vocals. “Gotta Serve Somebody” (Dylan) reminds us that whoever we are, we all serve someone and “Land Of Plenty” (Cohen/Robinson) again starts with ethereal flute paving the way for Barb’s clear vocals. The final track is Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” and it finishes the album with flair and shows Barb’s range.

This is not an album for the faint-hearted. Barb gives Dylan’s and Cohen’s words emotion and clarity and the listener is taken into the worlds of the subjects — subjects who are the oppressed, the sad and lonely and politically disempowered. At times, the emotion which Barb puts into the vocals is almost overwhelming.

She is backed by Neville Malcolm (bass), Steve Watts (bass), Gary Hammond (percussion), Clive Bell (Shakahachi), Simon Wallace (Hammond organ, piano, accordion and synthesiser), and Richard Olatunde Baker (talking drums and additional percussion), even of whom clearly understands the songs and what Barb is trying to say here.

One of the album’s blessings is that it is not over-produced so you get many of the little quirks, nuances and shakes in the voice that come with emotional singing — and that makes the music even more effective. Barb has a great tool in her voice and she combines it with the songs of great wordsmiths to produce an album in which one listen is simply not enough. Barb has an incredible range and these songs suit her voice wonderfully. Because the words are so clear, you find yourself drawn into the characters painted in the songs, and yet the messages are clear.

Hard Rain is a great album, one in which to immerse yourself until you are soaked through.

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Sammy Stein

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