Barb Jungr’s music has taken her as far afield as Malawi, Cameroon, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Norway, Holland and the United States.
But despite the title of her latest album, the UK singer acclaimed for interpretations of artists including Bob Dylan has never been to Memphis. ”I know,” she laughs when asked about her decision to name the centre in Tennessee of rock, soul, blues and other music with her home town in Stockport to Memphis. ”It’s hilarious.”
She says she cited Memphis as if it were on a ”wish list”.
”It is like imagining that you are married to George Clooney,” Jungr says. ”I imagine that I am going to go to Memphis. That way it will become real.”
On her fourth Australian tour in recent years, Jungr is an enthusiastic traveller who cites the experiences of her Czech father, held in German work camps in World War II, and German-born mother.
”My intuitive response to my own history is to travel,” she says, noting that maternal great-grandparents journeyed across a war-torn Europe long before her mother did. ”I think it is true musically as well.”
Classmates she had not seen in decades who lined up with fans at the Stockport Plaza recently after her first performance in her home town insisted they ”knew you would do this”.
The singer recalls a teenage passion for soul music in the album’s title track. She remembers putting on make-up on the 10-kilometre bus trip to Manchester to dance under-age at the Twisted Wheel and, ”going home and pretending I had been somewhere else”.
Jungr says she is fortunate to have been around in the ’60s to experience ”this explosion of music that came from what we would now call African-American soul sources”. ”It rang my whole body like a bell.”
She is probably best known for her distinctive interpretations of artists including Jacques Brel, Nina Simone, Jimmy Webb and Leonard Cohen.
She comes to Melbourne after appearing at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival with pianist Simon Wallace, with whom she wrote four of five original songs on the album. Her repertoire will feature songs from the CD by artists including Sam Cooke, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Tom Waits.
”I intend to cram in as much as I can,” Jungr says.
Barb Jungr sings at the Melbourne Recital Centre on June 14 and 15.