Barb Jungr ‘Every Grain of Sand’ 15th Anniversay Edition LP/CD (Linn) 4/5

Combining cabaret, theatre and music has been a key ingredient to Barb Jungr’s career to date, and this timely re-issue of arguably her strongest album (elsewhere she has interpreted the music of Jacques Brel and Nina Simone) coincides with the fifteenth anniversary of the original release. The Dylan songbook only continues to rise in stature with time and the excellent ACE compilation, ‘Black America sings Dylan’, showcased just how differently musicians could interpret his music. In the case of Jungr, she skilfully reworks the songs in ways that you might never have thought imaginable where folk and jazz interweave effortlessly with the chanson tradition. Jungr is very ably assisted in bringing the project to fruition by her long-time pianist and collaborator Simon Wallace, with jazzy licks provided by saxophonist Mark Lockheart who has equally carved out his own parallel career with some excellent solo work.
If the tone is gentle and refined on the gospel-tinged piano and vocals of, ‘I’ll be your baby tonight’, then the tempo goes up a notch or two on the accordion led, ‘Things have changed’. Above all else, the singer’s love of Dylan’s repertoire comes shining through, as illustrated on the lovely reading of, ‘I want you’. A personal favourite interpretation of this writer arrives in the shape of the jazz-inflected take on, ‘If not for you’, with the subtle use of strings and the delicate soprano saxophone musings of Lockheart.

New sleeve notes by Barb Jungr reminisce on the original 2002 recording and help place the music in a wider historical context. A lengthy UK tour commences in March and goes on all the way into May with tour dates at venues as far apart as the Pizza Express in London on 29 March and her native north-west at the Plaza in Stockport on 21 April.The European dimension to the tour kicks off with a concert in Berlin on 6 March. 

Tim Stenhouse