I have had the pleasure previously of enjoying superb British singer Barb Jungr interpreting songs by the iconic Bob Dylan, so it was with enthusiasm that I sought out her program titled “Man in the Long Black Coat,” a show devoted entirely to Dylan at the Metropolitan Room (October 18-29, 2011). Her appearance dovetails with her new ”Man in the Long Black Coat” CD (Linn Records), and while one can enjoy just listening, the opportunity to see her in action is most welcome, for when Jungr sings, it is with body as well as soul—in other words, with her entire energetic, effervescent presence as well as with her distinctive voice.
It is exciting to savor what Jungr does with Dylan, who is thought of mostly for his earthy, folk style as a performer. However, Dylan is also a superb composer and lyricist with a broad vision of subject matter, and Jungr, unabashedly a fan, digs into his work with an effort to extract full meaning. What emerges is her own style, Jungr singing Dylan, not Jungr as Dylan. She gives a full-force treatment to his numbers, with various effective arrangements and Tracy Stark at the piano.
Jungr also is adept at providing instructive comments, and she has an appealing sense of humor, which she invokes to pinpoint ironies about the lyrics, accompanied by her barbed asides. She is attentive to shades of love, as well as to the political statements contained in some of the best known numbers, and on occasion she uses a harmonica to add flavor.
Getting to specifics, her “Blind Willie McTell” is a strong bluesy blast against inhumanity. “Times They Are A Changin’” is sung with extra power, which she also brings to “Like a Rolling Stone.” I especially like “With God on Our Side,” the anti-war song that twits the claims by each opponent to be favored by God.
When it comes to love, Jungr applies maximum tenderness and emotion to Dylan’s “Sara,” as she also does with the mellow “I Want You.” There’s a tone of the ominous and the mischievous with “Man in the Long Black Coat.” Total all of those choices and more and you have Jungr’s take on one of the most talented artists in terms of influencing a generation and leaving a rich musical legacy for future generations. A bit of two-fold advice: See her show and also get her CD. Reviewed at The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, Reservations: 212-206-0440.