Barb Jungr

The Men I Love: The New American Songbook

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When jazz, cabaret, and traditional pop artists speak of the Great American Songbook, they are usually referring to Tin Pan Alley treasures of the 1910s, '20s, '30s, and '40s. But worthwhile American popular music didn't end with Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Harry Warren, or the Gershwin siblings. Rock and R&B gave us subsequent generations of American musical poets, and British cabaret singer Barb Jungr obviously had that fact in mind when she called this album The Men I Love: The New American Songbook. Jungr's 2010 release is not a celebration of the Tin Pan Alley era, but rather, a tribute to songwriters (most of them American) who made their mark in the '60s, '70s, or '80s. Although cabaret has been a major focus for Jungr, The Men I Love doesn't really fall into that category. Stylistically, this 52-minute CD has more to do with folk-rock, soft rock, and adult alternative than it does with cabaret. So when Jungr puts her stamp on Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere," Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" (a major country-pop hit for Glen Campbell in 1968), or Paul Simon's "My Little Town," listeners are reminded of Judy Collins, Sarah McLachlan, or Mary Fahl rather than Wesla Whitfield or the late Nancy LaMott. Jungr takes plenty of chances, transforming everything from the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" to the Isley Brothers-associated "This Old Heart of Mine" into introspective folk-rock ballads. Occasionally, Jungr misses the mark. Her most awkward moment comes on Bruce Springsteen's "The River," a poignant tale of a blue-collar worker who impregnates his high school sweetheart and struggles to support a wife and kid doing construction work when he can find it. Jungr, like Springsteen, performs "The River" in the first person and does so without irony, which is problematic because The Boss' lyrics were obviously written from a male point of view. "The River" probably would have worked well for Jungr had she changed Springsteen's lyrics to the third person and played the part of a sympathetic female observer, but trying to portray a construction worker who impregnated his girlfriend was a misstep on Jungr's part. Thankfully, that is the only real misstep on a generally engrossing album that has a lot more plusses than minuses.

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