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Barb Jungr

Barb Jungr
Barb Jungr is renowned for her extraordinary song stylings - combining her unique vocals with radical, minimal arrangements and interpretations. Her acclaimed recordings and live performances have revealed her to be one of Europe's most exciting singers.
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Biography

Barb Jungr has never been to Memphis. But as a teenage girl in 1960s Stockport, she nurtured a longing for what it represented; the sweet soul music she danced to in clubs at night, and its sense of a bigger, more beautiful world than the Lancashire industrial town she couldn't wait to leave.

The journey Jungr subsequently went on was unpredictable and often dangerous, taking her from punk London to a besieged Sudanese island, and post-9/11 New York. All the while she was refining her art as an interpretative singer over numerous collaborations and 10 solo albums, taking on the songs of the greatest post-war singers - Elvis Presley, Nina Simone - and writers: especially Dylan, whose work she inhabits as fully as anyone except Dylan himself. Barb Jungr has travelled very far from Stockport. And now she is back.

Stockport to Memphis's title song is one of five written by her, a new solo departure. Its lyrics trace a life's arc. "I've never celebrated Stockport," Jungr says. "But when my dad died, I went back to help look after my mum, and home became a very real thing. It's the clear earth that you stand on. Stockport's in a terrible state now, there's no work, and it needs celebrating. And it was where I discovered Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay", this exciting and vibrant and personal music."

"New Life"'s jazzy ballad of rebirth maps Jungr's early 1970s escape route, taking the bus out of Stockport. It also reflects the harsher odyssey of her parents, Czech-born Miroslav and German Ingrid, whose playing of jazz at home was as formative as the soul she danced to at night. "My parents grew up in war zones," she says. "My father was in the German camps. I wrote "New Life" about the experiences of my parents, and my father-in-law Frank Bowling the painter, who came from Guyana. My dad remembered being on the ferry when they came over from the refugee camps, and dawn rising on the white cliffs. That imagery is the core of the song."

Jungr had played in bands with friends in Stockport, Manchester and Leeds. Arriving in London in 1976, as punk exploded, remade her. "My boyfriend said, ‘I don't understand why you don't become a singer.' It was like somebody opening a door," she recalls. "I moved into a flat in Earl's Court which was a hell-hole. My heart was like a runaway puppy then. I went wherever it went, in every single way. When I did my Nina Simone album, and "When I Was A Young Girl", where she sings about going "out of the ale house and into the jail house", someone said, ‘Oh no, you can't do that if you haven't lived it.' And I thought, ‘You shouldn't assume people haven't lived things because they don't trumpet them.' It was edgy then. And a lot of people fell off the edge."

Did Jungr?

"I've always hung on with one hand. But you're in places quite often where you're not in control of where the edge is - hitchhiking home at night for example, where you realise you're in danger and are going, ‘I have a set of choices here, and if I say the right things I'll be alright.' But saying the wrong things would be just as easy."

As part of the early 1980s alternative cabaret trio The Three Courgettes, Jungr deepened her vocal education, unpicking and adapting old gospel harmonies, when not busking down the Portobello Road with John Hegley. "We signed with Island, toured with Kid Creole, and had a hilarious time."

Jungr and Parker, her musical partnership with Michael Parker, was next. "We made six records, and worked on the alternative cabaret circuit. I've used an old Jungr and Parker song, "Till My Broken Heart Begins To Mend", on this album, because it's part of the journey."

In 1991, the British Council asked the pair to go to Sudan: Jungr's next transforming trip. "It was mind-blowing," she says. "We did some workshops there which were heartbreaking. This girl came over to me, and she had learned "Careless Whisper" from the radio and sang it perfectly, and she said, ‘I don't wear the veil.' She'd been stoned in the street. And you just go, the world is a very big place. And those edges are everywhere."

With the country on the cusp of civil war, Jungr and Parker "ran away" from their minders to an island occupied by South Sudanese rebels. Then they went still further out. "In Cameroon, we took a three-week tour into the bush. There was a different world the minute you left the street-lights." Everywhere music was played, exchanged, absorbed.
Jungr and Parker eventually split in 1994. "So I did a Masters, two years of hardcore thinking about music." Deeply schooled now in life and work, Jungr was finally ready for her solo career.

Landmark recordings followed, including The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2010). Tackling singer-songwriters such as Bruce Springsteen and David Byrne, it rejected the notion that a songbook fit for interpretation closed with Cole Porter. "It was a deliberately challenging, provocative title," she says. "Just because songwriters of the last 60 years have sung their own songs, doesn't mean I can't own that material too."

Dylan has been her touchstone in this, the best of her interpretations so far collected on Man In The Long Black Coat: Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan (2011). On From Stockport to Memphis, she sings his "Lay Lady Lady", which she used to hate. The way she found her place in it demonstrates her art. "I suddenly realised that it was possible to lift it from what I had always thought was a slightly grim, macho view of sexuality. I thought, ‘You can reframe this as a memory of someone saying, ‘Lay lady lay...', a conversation in your head that your lover had with you, that you repeat in your head and think about."

Dylan's music took her to New York, where she began singing her show of his songs in 2002. "I was playing near where the Twin Towers had been, and the show on before me was the firemen's story. People were leaving in tears as I set up, and no one wanted to go to that part of town. But I got an award for that run. And because I don't have kids and don't have to worry about who pays for their food, as long as I could have a great time and sing, it didn't matter. Then four years ago, I crossed into having an audience in America. I found myself playing on Sunset Boulevard, and New York Town Hall, where Paul Robeson had been."

Stockport to Memphis's other songs include Rod Argent's Zombies hit "She's Not There", gender-switched and minus harmonies. And then there's Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come". On a long and rich journey with so many unplanned stops, it takes her back to the Stockport clubs where she started and, dreaming of Memphis, couldn't wait to leave.

"Yeah. And from a place of great love. Coming home is an important part of your journey."


Management

info@nickstewart.net

Discography

Hard Rain
Hard Rain (2014)

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River
River (2012)

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a gospel infused, festive re-imagining of the Joni Mitchell classic

Stockport To Memphis
Stockport To Memphis (2012)

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Stockport's own Barb Jungr and her sensational musical mission to Memphis

The Men I Love: The New American Songbook
The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2010)

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Jungr's first album for Naim documents her love for American popular song and its songwriters

Wichita Lineman [Free Download]
Wichita Lineman [Free Download] (2009)

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Barb Jungr is more than just a great singer. She is one of the world's premiere song stylists.

Videography

Reviews | all reviews >>

Hard Rain in MOJO
3 Stars

"As an interpreter, Jungr's ace in the hole is an ability to personalise even age-old familiars like "Blowin' In The Wind" without resorting to deconstruct mode." First We Take Manhattan" is beautifully reworked, with Jungr draping a delicate vocal line over Simon Wallace's piano back-drop of a kind that Gil Evans might have visualised for Miles. Fascinating Fare…it's more than alright, Ma."
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Hard Rain in Sunday Times
"Once again, the British singer finds new paths through what, at first glance, might seem familiar material. 1000 Kisses Deep is simply heart-stopping. Jungr's attention to timbre and nuance brings new depth to every syllable."
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Hard Rain in Folking
"Jungr has the ability to take a well known song and make it her own. This is a knockout album."
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Hard Rain in All About Jazz
"The readings of these Dylan songs reaffirm Jungr's standing as a Dylan interpreter; her loose, easy version of Chimes of Freedom — made famous as a hit by The Byrds — emphasises that Jungr rivals the group as one of the best. In no way does it detract from her abilities as a Dylan interpreter to say that the revelation of Hard Rain is that her versions of the Cohen songs all but steal the album. As an album, it is the equal of Jungr's two all-Dylan ones but, more importantly, it opens up a rich new seam for her to mine. More!!"
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Hard Rain in R2
5 Stars

"Barb Jungr affirms her reputation as a consummate Dylan interpreter with a collection of Bob's political and spiritual narratives augmented here by similar matieral from the pen of his contemporary, Leonard Cohen...nourish jazz bues arrangemtns compound her ethereal impressionism. Its quite some achievement to throw new light on these old tableaux."
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Hard Rain in the Daily Mirror
4 Stars

"Jungr proved one of the greatest interpreters of Bob Dylan songs with two previous cover albums from his awesome songbook. This time, two towering masters of Jewish American song provide the raw material for Barb's rich voice and finely details jazzy arrangements. A notable achievement."
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Hard Rain in The Independent
5 Stars

"It's a masterclass in the value of interpretive liberty, with songs transform in almost revelatory manner. As with the album generally, its a subtle balance of hot and cold, a work of fiery cool."
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Hard Rain in Jazzwise
5 Stars

"Investing everything she sings with telling insight, Jungr's complete affinity with the material lends the collection a galvanising power. There are lyrical jewels a plenty."
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Hard Rain in Uncut
4 Stars

"The commanding and rhapsodic singing brings connection and insight while superlative arrangements - majoring in opulent blues jazz noir settings, refresh songs as daunting as "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "First We Take Manhattan". To give such standards precious new life is quite an achievement."
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Barb Junger in the Wall Street Journal
"Every singer in New York could learn from her"
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Barb Jungr in The Times
4 Stars

"emotionally intense... Spell-binding"
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Barb Jungr in the Huffington Post
"sometimes sweet, sometimes fervent... devotion to the Memphis sound"
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Barb Jungr in the Daily Telegraph
"a terrific re-imagining of Mitchell’s song... inspired"
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Barb Jungr in Mojo
3 Stars

"spirited... covered classics"
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Barb Jungr in The Independent Radar
“a spiritual pilgrimage in song mixing works from her favourite artists with new original material…great”
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Barb Jungr in Rock 'N' Reel
"emoting lyric driven tunes"
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Barb Jungr in Record Collector
3 Stars

"Barb Jungr at her spellbinding best... irresistible"
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Barb Jungr in Jazzwise
"rather fine... with an intriguing twist"
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Barb Jungr in the Westmorland Gazette
"England's very own Dusty Springfield"
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Barb Jungr in Thirsk Weekly News
" A cheery classic"
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Barb Jungr in Exposed Magazine
"velvety vocals... harmonious"
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Barb Jungr in the Daily Telegraph
3 Stars

"wonderfully earthy... touching"
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Barb Jungr in All About Jazz
"autobiographical... exquisitely nostalgic... atmospheric"
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Barb Jungr in Inside Cabaret
"brilliantly crafted and deeply personal"
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Barb Jungr in the Sunday Times
"typically intelligent"
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Barb Jungr in AAA Music
4 Stars

"integrity... with a gentle classiness"
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Barb Jungr in indielondon.co.uk
4 Stars

"another gem of an LP"
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Barb Jungr in The Crack magazine
"Cabaret stuff, in the best sense of the word"
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Barb Jungr in the Daily Telegraph
“gutsy, soulful and occasionally devastating”
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Stockport To Memphis in the Sunday Mercury
"significant new direction for Barb because she has included five self-penned numbers in the setlist – and very good they prove to be"
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Barb Jungr in DownBeat
4 Stars

"extend new musical light on what we think of as 'the originals'."
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Barb Jungr on Motif (AU)
"Jungr is a magician with words and her ability to transmute anything she sang into something sombre and heartfelt was the stuff of pure alchemy."
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The Men I love in Limelight
'amongst the best when it comes to reinterpreting popular songs'
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The Men I Love on Jazz Buss
" To hear her alternately draw in tenderly and unfurl the tune is a wondrous experience."
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barb JUngr in The Scotsman
"Superb"
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The Men I love on Blurt-online
'Barb Jungr brings the same kind of warm, elegant clarity and effortlessly compelling dramatic intonation to her singing as Emma Thompson does to her acting, and instantly establishes anything she does as important.'
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The Men I Love on A Life Of Style
"After hearing Ms. Jungr live, I realize she is more than a singer - but a true performer. On stage she has the power to take you up with a wind blown lyric, and then drag you through the depths of a long lost dream with another. Great performers have the ability to create this arc - Jungr has it in spades."
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The Men I love on Nightlifeexchange
"This isn't merely an entertainer whose talents scrape the heavens; rather, this is an entertainer who grabs the stars from the skies and scatters them across a room with her talent."
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The Men I Love on Blitzmag
" Jungr reiterates her determination to take possession of the basic framework and reinvent according to her individual preferences...it is obvious that she has succeeded admirably."
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The Men I Love on Epoch Times
"Jungr’s Men is an artfully crafted, contemporary sounding session, sensitive and powerful...For the full effect, check her out live"
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The Men I love in Jazz Times
"powerfully affecting....for sheer poetic beauty, none can match the stirring solemnity of her prayerlike "Night Comes On."
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The Men I Love in Time Out NYC
"Her supple and versatile voice glows like a hearth on a winter's day...superb"
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The Men I Love in Allmusic.com
"an engrossing album...transforming everything from Talking Heads to the Isley Brothers"
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The Men I Love on OsPlaceJazz.com
3 Stars

'Jungr and Wallace try to capture the spirit of a live performance. They succeed '
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The Men I Love in The Sunday Mercury
"This new CD is [a] collection of fine compositions...unique"
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The Men I Love in Culture Catch
"If cabaret is to have a future (and sizable audience) beyond senior citizens, it will likely sound like this"
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The Men I Love in Wears The Trousers Magazine
"Intimate yet dramatic, it’s lush enough to swim in and full of heart-tugging sincerity"
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The Men I Love in Cabaret Scenes
"Few artists can lay claim to being labeled 'one of the world’s premiere song stylists…' Here, Jungr wipes away the competition."
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The Men I Love in Cabaret Scenes
"With bold choices and naked emotionalism, Barb Jungr is committed, commanding and compelling"
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The Men I Love in Jazzwise
3 Stars

"At times startling and often revelatory, sometimes within the space of a single song"
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The Men I Love in Net Rhythms
"It's a lovely album and much more than the background listening such projects can tend to be. Someone send Rod Stewart a copy"
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The Men I Love in In Tune
"She totally subverts all previous versions...enlightening and soulful"
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The Men I Love in Rock 'n' Reel
4 Stars

"There are few better interpreters of contemporary song than Barb Jungr"
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The Men I Love in Metro
"she’s established herself as one of the leading lights of the art-song tradition..outstanding"
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The Men I Love in the Huffington Post
"at the moment one of the best, if not the best, is Barb Jungr...she has an ability to combine intellectual depth with authentic emotionalism"
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The Men I Love in All About Jazz
"Thoughtfully and beautifully rendered...revealing pleasures previously hidden by the lesser interpretations of these numbers"
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The Men I Love in St Joes News
"Barb Jungr has that Joni Mitchell hipness. Her interpretation of new standards are like vocal poetry."
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The Men I Love in the Information (The Independent)
"Takes your breath away"
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The Men I Love in The Independent
4 Stars

"poised on the cusp of relaxation and anticipation...perfect"
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The Men I Love in Time Out NYC
"one of the top five cabaret singers in the world right now. She’s just that good"
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The Men I Love in Midwest Record
"A new high water mark for sitting down music"
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The Men I Love on BBC.co.uk
"[Jungr] sounds as if she has lived every line of every song...daring, drama and emotion"
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The Men I Love in ThisIsBooksMusic
"a true artist who knows how to get in the spirit of these compositions and allow herself to get caught up in the music"
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The Men I Love in Sunday Times
4 Stars

"Walking a fine line between cabaret, jazz and grown-up pop, Jungr has always had an eye for an unlikely tune"
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The Men I Love in Choice Magazine
"a truly great interpretive singer"
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The Men I Love in Daily Echo
3 Stars

"shows just what a travesty shows like X-Factor make of a much maligned art"
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The Men I Love in Record Collector
3 Stars

"a unique presentational style"
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The Men I Love on LondonJazzBlog
"Jungr at her magnificent best"
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The Men I Love in VortexJazz
"Jungr infuses lyrics with extraordinary tenderness"
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The Men I Love in Attitude Magazine
3 Stars

"Elegant"
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