Barb Jungr - Man in the Long Black Coat - BBC Online

In March 2002, singer Barb Jungr released Every Grain of Sand, an album of Bob Dylan songs, on Linn. It became a cult classic, bringing her universal praise as a Dylan interpreter, and acting as a springboard for her career. Not lacking success before, Jungr has been on an upward trajectory ever since.

As if to acknowledge her debt to Dylan, each of Jungr's subsequent Linn albums has included at least two of his songs. She even included a couple each on her tribute albums to Elvis Presley and Nina Simone. As Jungr herself has said, "Once I had started singing Dylan's songs, I couldn't stop."

Released to coincide with Dylan's 70th birthday, Man in the Long Black Coat is almost a sequel to Every Grain of Sand, in that it consists entirely of Dylan songs. However, it is not a completely new album. Instead, it compiles all the Dylan tracks from Jungr's post-2002 Linn albums and adds versions of four Dylan songs not previously recorded by her.

As always, Jungr's versions cannot be called covers as they radically reinvent the originals. They are most successful when they avoid superfluous embellishments and focus on Jungr's voice, which expressively conveys every nuance of the lyrics. But a few tracks try too hard to introduce jazz elements; for instance, The Times They Are A-Changin' really is not improved by the addition of a saxophone solo between verses.

Tellingly, the four new recordings are the most successful, evidence that Jungr continues to improve. Crucially, they all focus firmly on the piano and Jungr's voice. With God On Our Side - its lyrics as relevant today as they were when first heard in 1964 - is given a rousing, impassioned reading. In complete contrast, a gorgeous version of Sara - Dylan's poignant love song to his estranged wife - perfectly captures the fragile longing of his lyrics.

As a Dylan interpreter, Jungr is right up there with Simone or The Byrds. Thankfully, Dylan has written over 200 songs, so we can hope to see more fine Jungr albums like this.

BBC Online
26 May 2011