Reviewer: Jonathan Grant
Barb Jungr opened her residency at The Hippodrome in a show promoting her album due out in October, Stockport To Memphis. Her voice has a beautiful clarity and married to her well-rehearsed four piece accompaniment, The Stockport to Memphis Rhythm and Blues Band, who incredibly were playing live as an ensemble for the first time, the sound was perfectly matched and very easy on the ear. In particular Neville Malcolm on bass and pianist Simon Wallace are sublime in their relaxed contribution to the evening’s sound.
Jungr performed most of the tracks on the upcoming album, which is a collection of her own compositions combined with covers. Demonstrably proud of her Stockport roots, her writings are often autobiographical and when Jungr sings New Life, her pride in her émigré father who settled in this country against tough odds is evident. However, while Jungr may have the most perfect of pitches, as a lyricist her sentiments often have the potential to be too saccharine and shallow.
Urban Fox, a blues number inspired by a late night encounter with just such a creature was heartfelt in intent, but a little naive in delivery. An accomplished children’s writer, this song seemed to find Jungr almost caught in the headlights of an unfortunate crossover betwixt child-focused analogy and adult soulful intensity.In her cover numbers, Jungr’s soft sound anaesthetises the painful intensity of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come and similarly smoothes over the coarseness of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay, rendering both songs into more of an elevator music rendition than is probably the singer’s intention.
Perhaps the timing of the show is wrong. 7.30 in the evening may well just be too early for a gig which, like a long mellow whisky, is probably best appreciated around midnight. When Jungr eventually sang her new album’s title song as the penultimate number she did truly give of herself into a passionate performance of R&B, but by then it was too little too late. As it stands, her set is crying out for more spine-tingling moments.
The Matcham Room is one of London’s newer cabaret venues and the fair sized audience in this stylish and spacy, yet still intimate theatre, clearly contained many of her admirers. As this performance is definitely one for the fans, they will not have been disappointed.