Barb Jungr – Stockport to Memphis (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
BARB Jungr continues to justify her reputation as one of the world’s most foremost interpreters of song with her latest album, Stockport to Memphis.
But she also shows herself to be an astute song-writer in her own right by including five of her own songs. The result is a really great listen, neatly combining new interpretations of classic tracks from the likes of Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan to those she has written with Simon Wallace.
The album begins with title track and new recording Stockport to Memphis, which has a classic Northern soul vibe, complete with some smouldering harmonica arrangements. It’s upbeat, toe-tapping fun instrumentally, yet indicative of the singer’s own journey lyrically.
For as a teenage girl in 1960s Stockport, Barb nurtured a longing for what Memphis represented – namely, the sweet soul music she danced to in clubs at night, and its sense of a bigger, more beautiful world than the northern industrial town she couldn’t wait to leave. The song is a fabulous way to make that point and a really personal tribute to her own success to boot.
Sam Cooke’s Change Is Gonna Come follows, stripped back with a subtle piano arrangement for accompaniment, and a blues-jazz style of delivery. It’s tremendously accomplished.
Her take on Joni Mitchell’s River, with all of its Christmas sentiments, is – admittedly – a bit of an odd choice but a meaningful song, moodily delivered with the right amount of regret and longing, but Old Man has a wonderfully reflective quality and washes over you serenely and thoughtfully (a sombre piano providing a hauntingly beautiful, even cinematic backdrop).
Elsewhere, New Life drops another jazz vibe, complete with subtle use of brass, on another of the Barb Jungr/Simon Wallace penned tracks, while there’s an extremely sensual take on Rod Argent’s She’s (He’s) Not There, which is effortlessly cool. It also brings one of the album’s most instantly recognizable moments.
Fisherman’s Blues is another bittersweet moment that’s stripped back, so as to allow Jungr’s stunning vocals to take centre-stage, and which is delivered with just the right amount of longing for escape, while Lay Lady Lay provides another of Jungr’s classic interpretations of a Bob Dylan standard.
A further highlight, meanwhile, comes in the sophisticated heartbreak song Till My Broken Heart Begins To Mend (another Jungr offering, co-written with Michael Parker), which once more thrives on a tick-tock percussion and some fabulous harmonica, complete with backing harmonies and a delicious central vocal.
Put together, Jungr has delivered another gem of an LP that provides an excellent combination of old and new, as well as definitive proof of why she is regarded as one of the world’s greatest vocalists.
Download picks: Stockport to Memphis, Old Man, She’s (He’s) Not There, Lay Lady Lay, Till My Broken Heart Begins To Mend