Adelaide audiences haven’t seen Barb Jungr for six years or so and her current show, Stockport to Memphis, is essentially an autobiographical journey that takes us from her roots in sleepy Stockport in Cheshire – “a town with a co-op, that’s all you need to know”, she quips – to Memphis from where she derives her musical inspiration.
Barb Jungr sings soulfully and splendidly. She writes much of her own material, and has a special talent for re-interpreting the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and … wait for it …even Hank Williams! In this eclectic mix lies the true measure of her skill and artistry – her ability to dissect, reassemble and inject freshness, new life and relevance into songs that have almost retreated into popular history. She gets to the heart of it all, to the very essence of a song. She is clearly moved and excited by what she does and always has an infectious and joyous smile on her face. The audience love her and she loves them back.
Dressed in a black tights and a slinky wrap-around dress, Jungr looks sensuous. Despite her misgivings about being “of an age”, she oozes sex appeal. Her style and voice defy categorisation: soul, blues, gospel and jazz; she does it all and her ability to communicate a song’s story with every fibre of her being is truly remarkable. She gestures not just with her face but with her entire body and, in sympathy, your own body feels the same tension, relaxation and exhilaration that she feels. Jungr also knows how to ‘word paint’ and extract maximum meaning from each word by bending pitch, modulating volume and tempo, and always with perfect diction and intonation. It’s never obvious how to do this, but Jungr has a rare instinct for it, and the result is entertaining to both watch and hear.
Jungr was expertly accompanied by solo pianist and long time collaborator and producer Simon Wallace. His playing was superb: controlled, never self-indulgent, and always complementing Jungr’s voice. Full marks to the audio technician for maintaining an appropriate balance.
This was my first live experience of Barb Jungr and it was so much more satisfying than listening to recordings. This lady is a classy performer and I left the concert knowing I had heard and seen something special, and the feeling was good, very good indeed.