Sunday, 14 June 2020

Song Preview: "Dancing in the Dark", Barb Jungr & Simon Wallace (Kristalyn Records, 2020)



The first song I ever heard Barb Jungr sing was by Bruce Springsteen: a version of "The River" that had so much intimacy, feeling and understated dramatic power that I was immediately captivated. This was February 2015 and a few days later, on Valentine's Day, I reviewed Jungr in concert for the first time. In the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room, accompanied by Simon Wallace on piano and Davide Mantovani on bass, Jungr delivered a supreme set of love-themed songs that ranged from the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)" through Dylan's "I Want You" to Tom Rush's "No Regrets." It was a transcendent evening, and a perfect introduction to the artistry of one of the greatest, most dynamic and original performers that we have. 

I've seen Jungr in concert many times since then, with programmes dedicated to Nina Simone, Dylan and Cohen, The Beatles, and Sting, among others. The last time was at the premiere of her superb Brel/Dylan/self-penned collection Bob, Brel & Mewhich featured a spectacular appearance by The Fourth Choir on "If We Only Had Love." Jungr recently re-teamed with the Choir for a new release, the beautiful "In My Troubled Days," which you can listen to here



Now, reuniting with Simon Wallace, Jungr returns to Springsteen's work to deliver a recording of "Dancing in the Dark" that was developed and recorded in lockdown. For Jungr, the song itself now speaks to that experience and to the uncertainty of the future: "For all of us in music and live performing arts, the news is grim. It made me think about how we are all waiting to see what might happen, and how we are all, wherever we are, Dancing in the Dark." 

As with "The River," Wallace's delicate piano, bass and cello arrangement provides an intimate musical context, and Jungr's caressing, crystal-clear vocal turns an upbeat rock song into a contemplative ballad: a private expression that connects deeply with the listener. Intimations of stasis, frustration, absurdity and alienation emerge freshly illuminated, and so does their possible redemption. Jungr's voice dances over the title lyrics at the end, repeating the words, an expression of uncertainty turned into a poignant, shared affirmation.

Like "In My Troubled Days," Jungr and Wallace's "Dancing in the Dark" is exquisite: a balm that we need right now. It also prompts a hopeful anticipation of that future moment - whenever it may be - when we can join together again to hear the song in live performance, in that very special communion that a Jungr show provides. 


"Dancing in the Dark" is available from 26 June. Pre-order here.


Further reading:

What the Song Asks For: An Interview with Barb Jungr

Life of a Song: Dancing in the Dark

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