CD REVIEWS: Walking In The Sun
The Sunday Times
"Magnificent ...Jungr's voice is truly a thing of wonder"
The Daily Express
Audiophile - 07/01/07
High Fidelity Review
Barb Jungr - Walking In The Sun
English chanteuse Barb Jungr knows how to give a song a personality, even when it is a song that already has a strong one. She's able to grab each song by the horns, and whether it is her own or someone else's to start with, by the time she's done, it's definitely hers. This could be a bad thing in the wrong hands, but fortunately, Jungr has the creativity, skill, and shrewd sense which put her into that select category of artists whom we're eager to hear cover songs. Her combination of covers and originals on her new Linn Records album 'Walking in the Sun' blends seamlessly into one of the most impressive albums I've heard this year.
Time and time again, Jungr shapes not only each line or even each song, but the entire ebb and flow of the album. For the keystone position at the center of the album, Jungr takes the melancholy "Rainy Day" by Brownie McGhee and alters the lyrics to sing it from the woman's point of view, an impressively effective conceit. The easier path would have been to merely change the gender being sung about in the song, but this angle makes it into a portrait of a restless woman's reflection on the path she had to take. Jessica Lauren's harmonica chimes in doleful commentary in the background, growing more elaborate as the song grows in emotion. The second half of the album starts off with 'Take Out Some Insurance' before Jungr tears into the next track, the most wide-flung and unexpected of the album. It starts with a harsh, aggressive a capella verse of the old traditional song 'Run On For A Long Time', which threatens that God will cut you down. But then it runs headlong into Randy Newman's acid-witted anti-faith song 'God's Song'. Its inclusion here is what makes Jungr's theme truly work. Her subject is faith, and she fearlessly dares to nail it to the wall with a blistering, theatrical account of the number.
Next, astonishingly, comes Bob Dylan's almost-lost masterpiece 'Blind Willie McTell'. I say astonishingly because it is boldness bordering on sacrilege to cover a song this great. Thus I was surprised and not a little concerned when I saw that Jungr was covering it on this album. And when the track first started, I was not happy. Jessica Lauren's arrangement here is almost buoyant, with a jazzy swing. At first glance, it seemed all wrong. But it doesn't pay to ever underestimate what Jungr and friends might have up their sleeves. As the groove settles in, it gives the song a period feel, like something out of the 1930's, with a wicked rhythmic hook. Soon it became clear that the buoyancy is actually nervous, kinetic energy. The jazz is the gallows-glamour of Great Depression-era clubs. Jungr turns up her radiance to full and slinks through the first few verses quite affectingly, if still seemingly at odds with the starkness of the song. Then she plays her trump card: The instruments abruptly cease, leaving her alone, vulnerable in the spotlight, lipstick gleaming as a tear falls. She slowly spins out the next verse and chorus like a glimpse into the center of a soul, shadowed by a few mere ghosts of dissonant notes drifting in from the background. When the instruments revive the groove, there is now an urgency and desperation that makes one believe, even if only for a few minutes, that this song couldn't be done any other way. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it myself.
Once again, I find my thoughts turning back to Bob Dylan, who is obviously a central inspiration to Jungr, even though her own style is quite different from his. She has learned his lessons well: Lessons of vision, commitment, characterization, and control of the ebb and flow of energy. I can offer no greater praise than that. Suffice it to say that when I first started listening to this album, my first coherent thought was: "This can't possibly be this good." Now after exploring it, living with it, and running through it with a fine-toothed comb for a few weeks, all I can say is this: It is. (Mark Jordan)
**** "Walking in the Sun" Jazzwise (Nov 06)
A funky percussion intro is joined by a chunky double bass riff. Must be the latest Cassandra Wilson release, right? Wrong. On her fifth album for Linn Records Barb Jungr - flanked by the members of her new trio, pianist Jenny Carr and organist Jessica Lauren - returns to her first love, blues and gospel, and delivers her most compellingly sung and intensely vital collection to date. Compared to her acclaimed homages to Brel, Dylan and Presley, "Walking in the Sun" is promiscuously inclusive. Jungr's finely tuned sense of high-wire drama is brought to bear on the vivid imagery of Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love?, the wistful yearning of Carole King'sWay Over Yonder, Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers to Cross complete with an ecstatic, hair-raising conclusion and, naturally, a further brace of Dylan songs (the powerful narratives of Trouble in Mind and Blind Willie McTell). The overriding impression is of each song being filtered through a decidedly creative and imaginative mind. (Peter Quinn)
**** Barb Jungr - Walking in the Sun
(Audiophile Audition, Dec ’06)
Jungr makes just about every song in this stunning assortment her own
Barb Jungr is a very well known singer in her native England, where she’s had a lengthy career of performances and collaborations with numerous artists; most recently, she participated in the "Girl Talk" sessions with Claire Martin and Mari Wilson. She’s also become quite something of a musicologist, with a very keen interest in world music and she’s lectured extensively about singing and vocal performance. Her repertory is quite broad, encompassing diverse styles ranging from French chansons to cabaret, folk, gospel and blues. This superb disc fromLinn Records features an eclectic mix of gospel and blues, as well as songs from artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Randy Newman and Carole King, and includes a couple of self-penned tunes as well. The resulting album has a very spiritual feel to it, and Barb Jungr finds a way to make just about every song in this stunning assortment her own.
Barb’s smoky-sweet alto is perfect here; on the disc’s opening track “Who Do You Love,” (popularized by George Thorogood’s raunch-n-roll version) she lends a very light vocal touch (almost a whisper), which theoretically seems totally wrong for this song, but she makes it just oh-so-right. The next track, Bob Dylan’s “Trouble In Mind,” opens with a sensationally smooth upright bass and finger-snapping intro, and segues into Barb’s spot-on vocal - this woman really knows how to sing the blues, and she can really belt it out as required. Jessica Lauren lends a lightly-played organ accompaniment that’s sheer perfection - one thing that’s evident from the start is how the vocal and instrumental textures are so perfectly arranged throughout this excellent disc... I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve hit the replay button on her soulful delivery of Brownie McGhee’s “Rainy Day.” It’s one of those magical moments where everything worked perfectly, and the resulting sounds are irresistible.
This is a textbook example of how surround sound should be done right. Highly recommended.
**** "Walking In The Sun"
Barb Jungr has just released her fifth album, Walking in the Sun, and it's a collection of songs, most of which are covers, but perhaps few of which you’ll actually have heard before.
Who is Jungr? An accomplished and eclectic singer, she has been called the English Edith Piaf. Having come to prominence through her performances in Edinburgh, Jungr's shows are a mixture of torch songs and edgy cabaret. With a background in ethnomusicology and an interest in all forms of traditional music, she fuses jazz, blues and folk influences. Basically, it's all about the song.
And songs are the hook on which this latest album hangs. Two Bob Dylan compositions, a Randy Newman piece, Carole King and others less known, but these are not generally standards. Instead, these are the kinds of songs that someone who really knows about music would choose and with her beautiful voice, which is high and clear, sensual and rich, Jungr brings her own personal interpretation to these songs. At times it seems as though she's channelling Peggy Lee or Nina Simone, at others she could be revisiting an earlier incarnation, for example her rendition of ‘Run On For a Long Time’ is reminiscent of her work with The Three Courgettes.
Walking in the Sun is an album for more sophisticated listeners. It has a sparse, smoky, after hours atmosphere and, should you be a rare muso with a Linn listening device, you'll be able to enjoy the genius of this album's innovative technical production.
But despite the sunshiny title, this album has its dark moments. The jazzy arrangements may be easy on the ear, but the lyrics tell tales of heartbreak and anguish