Some of the righteous ones, this season, hurt to listen to. Barb Jungr’s been threshing splendor out of Dylan, Cohen, and a few others, many seasons now, and so this one comes acutely calibrated. She knows when to speak, when to creak, when to whisper, when to bloom rich and full like a soon-gone rose. A cabaret band clanks along behind her monologues, Simon Wallace’s piano breaking loose after every reiteration of “hard rain’s gonna fall!” — embodying its madness, pleasure taken in the destruction of every verse’s construction.
Not all these songs embody devastation and loss. Enough do. “Blowin’ in the Wind”’s questions sting deeper for the progress not made in a half-century. Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” tell us, as the Japanese Emperor once told his people, that “we” (in this case, everybody with mercy in his/her heart) must accept defeat.
Cohen’s “Who by Fire” stacks up the departed, reason by reason; it’s Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” minus names and phrased as questions, not answers. A song of privilege, really, since its anonymous perish individually from individual circumstance, and sometimes individual choices, not in the same slots as, say, those with Ebola in Liberia. That’s somebody else’s choices.
Still, the power of likeminded cases on a list is how much heavier the list gets with every new line. Jungr sweetly keeps piling on the weight. The reaper rests his scythe against the hallway wall, or the porch, and knocks politely. Softly. But he will keep knocking. Evermore.
- Album: Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen
- Artist: Barb Jungr
- Label: Kristalyn Records
- Songs: (1) Blowin’ in the Wind (2) Everybody Knows (3) Who by Fire (4) Hard Rain (5) First We Take Manhattan (6) Masters of War (7) It’s Alright Ma (8) 1000 Kisses Deep (9) Gotta Serve Somebody (10) Land of Plenty (11) Chimes of Freedom