Some people – strange, troglodyte types – may not recognise Barb’s name. Some may not even have heard her voice before and perhaps this is part of the reason so many of her fans cherish her. Listening to Barb Jungr at any point is a very personal relationship the listener has with her and sharing it feels a little bit like shedding light of one of life’s great treasures. Having performed since the late seventies, she first gained wide recognition in the venues in which British alternative comedy was born, often treading the same boards as the likes of Alexei Sayle, Jo Brand and one of her biggest fans, Julian Clary. If you’re thinking of Barb as a cabaret artist, you’re off the mark. Barb has real soul; real songwriting skill and a gift for interpreting song that makes you question how the previous versions ever got off the ground.
Bob, Brel and Me, is semi-threatened to be her final album. This is quite possibly final in the same way of Sinatra and KISS final tours but fingers crossed she thinks better of it. Split roughly into thirds, her forthcoming album appropriately splits the tracks into her three most important muses which have featured throughout her career: Bob Dylan, Jacques Brel and, er, herself.
Barb’s reinventions of Dylan’s work have brought her high praise from around the world, from Billy Bragg to The New York Times. That’s as good a from/to as you’re ever going to get from me. Both Mr Tambourine Man and Simple Twist of Fate are through both jingle-jangled and skewed and put to the jazziest of Barb’s swords, whilst the towering songs of Brel are not only given Barb’s voice but also her translations (actually, not directly her’s but close enough and fully ratified by the Brel Foundation). The results are somewhat startling, with a joyously delivered “twat” in Jacky a reminder that his works are self-loathing, not as often becomes misconstrued, misogynistic. Such is Barb’s gift for revisiting tracks, even the most familiar song becomes an entirely different beast.
Her own tracks, including her new single, the typically chipper Rise & Shine and her tribute to the musician she worked with for so long, Michael Parker, No-One Could Ever Wear Your Shoes fit alongside perfectly. If your late to the game in finding Barb, you could scarcely start at a better place
Barb is appearing for a one-off date at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before a full late summer/Autumn string of dates, including the London Jazz Festival
Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 24th, Pleasance at EICC, Pentland Theatre
produced by Seabright Productions