Heading out on tour after a couple of nights at the Crazy Coqs, Dylan and Cohen in Love is Barb Jungr’s collection of songs by two of the 20th century’s greatest wordsmiths.
Accompanied by pianist and arranger Jenny Carr, a long-time collaborator, Jungr demonstrates a wide range in both vocal expertise and dramatic interpretation. It’s as much about the acting out of a song as the singing.
Cohen’s oeuvre is more familiar to me, but the evening is evenly split between the two singer-songwriters, teasing out what ‘love’ might mean at different stages of life. It is a fine selection of the work of both men, balancing the well-known and the lesser-known.
Opening with Dylan’s Love is a Four Letter Word, Jungr notes that this song is as bright as it gets. A touching version of Cohen’s So Long, Marianne follows, with its evocative imagery (“you held on to me like I was a crucifix”).
This is an evening about the power of words and communication; about understanding the songs you sing. Dylan’s Isis and Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat are both complex pieces, open to interpretation. In Jungr’s version, Isis is almost tribal in its force.
Cohen’s posthumous album, created by his son Adam, yields What Happens To The Heart, a song of reflection and experience late in life; at the close of her set, Jungr relates a story of her own teenage romance in Stockport to introduce a Cohen classic, Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.
Elsewhere, there’s Dylan’s Mississippi, recorded twenty years ago, a muse on wasted years, lost love and regret. Cohen’s Dance Me To The End of Love gains chants and adornments that make it feel fresh and urgent; Dylan’s Forgetful Heart is a slow and beautiful late piece, aided by a bluesy harmonica solo.
Jungr is a vibrant performer who connects with both audience and music, chatting between songs about moments like searching for Dylan’s house near Malibu, or embracing the new digital age of sharing recordings.
She proves a classy interpreter of Dylan and Cohen’s vision of the personal, the philosophical and the political. With two albums of Dylan behind her and a new recording of Famous Blue Raincoat, this is clearly a labour of love.
Check out the recent video for Famous Blue Raincoat here.