Barb Jungr - Man in the Long Black Coat - I heart the road

The idea of covering the classic Bob Dylan always worries me. Taking that signature nasally hum away from lyrics that are quoted on Facebook "about me" pages around the globe seems like a gamble. You have to tweak it just enough to ensure the sincerity remains intact.

Luckily Barb Jungr, 2011's Best Cabaret performer from Time Out New York, is no stranger to putting her own jazzy and decidedly more polished spin on modern bards like Leonard Cohen, David Byrne and Hank Williams. Dylan's source material is clearly in capable hands.

On her second foray into Dylan, 2011's Man in the Long Black Coat, Jungr brings us a voice that shapeshifts from track to track, refreshingly making each song a unique entity. Her phrasing and emphasis on "Like A Rolling Stone" jarred me a little at first because the original buildup to the "How does it feel?" refrain is absent. However, if you try to listen to it with fresh ears, you will swear you are listening to a resurrected and now British Karen Carpenter, answering "It feels pretty nice actually."  Her voice is pure and holds that languid quality that have jettisoned stars like Colbie Caillat to Lana Del Rey to the top in recent years.

A complete stylistic 180 is taken with "Just like Woman," when Barb changes the point of view and adds a little light reggae flair. This is not the first time a woman has tackled this song, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nina Simone have also given it a go, but they remained truer to the lyric and tempo. To hear a strong mature woman confidently sing, "I make love just like a woman/ and I ache just like a woman woman/ but I break just like a little girl," completely changes the context by putting it in first person. While listening to this upbeat number, I almost felt like I could hear a knowing smile in her voice. 

Sure this album isn't for everyone, but if you are like me and have 107 songs off various Glee soundtracks, you're obviously a fan of cover songs that diverge from original arrangement. Jungr gives Dylan the full finger snappin', cool cat, jazz hands treatment, and it works.

"Man in the Long Black Coat," which premiered in October, returns to the Metropolitan Room for three-week run from April 10 to 28. If you're in NY, check it out.

I heart the road
11 April 2012