Barb Jungr at The Crazy Coqs: Take Me to the River

Take Me to the River
A cabaret of songs with music & lyrics by Brian Eno, David Byrne, Gerry Marsden, Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse, Ewan McColl, Ray Davies, Percy Mayfield, Barb Jungr, Simon Wallace, Hank Williams, Jerome Moross, John LaTouche, Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein ll, Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, and Sam Cooke

Barb Jungr (singer) & Simon Wallace (piano)

Reviewed by: Tom Vallance

Reviewed: 15 January, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London

Barb Jungr. Photograph: Garry LaybourneThe singer-songwriter Barb Jungr opened the new season at the splendid Crazy Coqs cabaret room with a grand programme of first-class songs that allowed her to showcase her fine voice and interpretative skills, bringing a new approach to familiar material and fresh life to neglected songs. Though particularly associated with the work of Bob Dylan, she has made albums paying tribute to Nina Simone, Jacques Brel and Elvis Presley.

Jungr’s theme for the current show is rivers, perhaps inspired the New York Times stating she is a “fearless iconoclast who dives into the deepest waters of popular song to wrest exotic treasure from the ocean floor.” Though she had a Czech father and a German mother, Jungr was born in England, in Rochdale and raised in Stockport, and her strong Northern accent permeates her earthy and unpretentious chat between numbers. Jungr, while loving the Great American Songbook, favours the songs that came later than 1950, a collection she calls the New American Songbook, though there is a smattering of Broadway compositions, including the highly regarded ‘Lazy afternoon’ from Jerome Moross and John Latouche’s The Golden Apple (1954), and Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s ‘Feeling good’ from The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd (1968), a song memorably recorded by Lena Horne in sinuous, febrile fashion totally different to Jungr’s joyous interpretation. Her version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s ‘Old man river’ is possibly inspired by Judy Garland’s, with a similar introspective start building to a thrilling climax, a sustained emotional release and one of the evening’s several show-stoppers.

Among the unexpected pleasures is a lyrical, loving rendition of ‘Ferry cross the Mersey’, known for Gerry Marsden’s appealing, husky version but revealed by Jungr to be a more beautiful song. She touchingly evokes the pathos of Ewen McColl’s ‘Sweet Thames flow softly’, a folksong of a love that blazes then fades during a boat trip, though she points out that the song is wildly inaccurate geographically. Percy Mayfield’s ‘River’s invitation’ finds Jungr singing the blues with a passion that stands comparison with Aretha Franklin. Simon Wallace displays his fine musicianship during the number.

Wallace and Jungr have collaborated on writing songs, one of them a fond evocation of Jungr’s roots,‘Last orders, Mersey Square’, in which she recalls the public-house bell that signalled ‘last orders’, and the bygone era when “everybody knew everybody and nobody locked their door.” Other songs given Jungr’s fine treatment (she also displays flair for the harmonica) include Hank Williams’s ballad of despair ‘Lost on the river’, ‘Waterloo sunset,’ written by Ray Davies for The Kinks, and Bruce Springsteen’s ’The river’, with witty links, sometimes self-deprecating, notable for superb comic timing. On growing older, Jungr observes that “Life’s a swizz…”. One of her concluding numbers is Sam Cooke’s ‘Change is gonna come’, 1964, which became an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. Jungr acknowledges Cooke as her greatest inspiration, and his song makes a stirring climax to a rewarding and enjoyable evening.

  • Barb Jungr is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 19 January 2013
  • Bookings 020 7734 4888

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