Sarah Alden
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Sarah Alden

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Folk


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"Carolina Chocolate Drops: Folk Meets the Beatbox"

For her part, Giddens gives the song the strongest vocal presence it's had. In the original, Rima Fand and Sarah Alden traded verses and harmonized to provide extra texture; here, they provide rich backup to Giddens. Given the song's playfully assertive message — "Show me the money and the milk and honey" — "Knockin'" is an excellent companion to "Hit 'Em Up Style," a pop hit the Carolina Chocolate Drops already gave a unique facelift. - NPR

"Review: Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii"

hroughout the verses, competing licks from resonator guitar and banjo keep the rollicking stomp moving forward before the fiddle jumps back in on a chorus that builds to boisterous musical shouts. I have no idea what the song is about but given the aura of celebratory conviction, I’m in 100% agreement nonetheless. - No Depression

"From Brooklyn to the Balkans: Luminescent Orchestrii’s Gypsy Punk"

Time and again, in my role as international music journalist, I'm asked: "What country is that from?" Recently, I've found myself answering, more and more: Brooklyn. This happens most when the query has to do with a band that has no specific geographic locale, but rather mixes a sonically alchemical blend of lands and ideas. This aptly defines Luminescent Orchestrii, a four-piece outfit who mashes in plenty of Balkan and Gypsy tunes and is not afraid to go into beatboxing (as guest Adam Matta does on "Nasty Tasty"), and by singing all in English - Sing Out! Magazine

"The best cabaret of 2011"

1 Barb Jungr: Man in the Long Black Coat at Metropolitan Room, October
The extraordinary English singer didn’t just cover Bob Dylan’s songs; she uncovered and discovered them with exuberant musical insight.

2 Bettye LaVette at Café Carlyle, May–June
In a riveting two-hour set, LaVette let her soul voice soar like a phoenix shaking its ash.

3 Dina Martina: Moribund at Laurie Beechman Theatre, September–October
The hilarious Seattle drag star, a wizard of pure showbiz id, finally gave New York a real run.

4 Nellie McKay: I Want to Live at Feinstein’s, March–April
The expertly pert and off-kilter performer upended the Regency with a madcap riff on a 1950s prison flick.

5 Bridget Everett at Joe’s Pub, yearlong
The daredevil mama bear of alt cabaret touched audiences in all kinds of uncomfortable places.

6 Christine Ebersole at Café Carlyle, January
The omnitalented Broadway star’s musical champagne had a cumulative kick to go along with the bubbles.

7 The Meeting* with Justin Sayre at the Duplex, yearlong
Fairy godfather Justin Sayre was full of pith and vinegar at this witty neoretro gay variety show.

8 Natalie Joy Johnson: Relentless at Joe’s Pub; February, April
A musical-theater second banana slipped out of her peel in a raunchy, revelatory star turn.

9 Maude Maggart: Everybody’s Doin’ It at the Oak Room, February–March
The sultry chanteuse once again set hearts pounding with a lovely new set of old standards.

10 Our Hit Parade at Joe’s Pub, yearlong
Three years old and still running wild, this monthly institution remained New York’s preeminent alt-cab showcase.

Piano bar performer of the year: Brian Nash
The crackerjack pianist and singer makes every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night a key party at the Duplex.

December 11, 2011 - Time Out New York

"Music– Review of Barb Jungr's "Man in the Long Black Coat""

In March 2002, singer Barb Jungr released Every Grain of Sand, an album of Bob Dylan songs, on Linn. It became a cult classic, bringing her universal praise as a Dylan interpreter, and acting as a springboard for her career. Not lacking success before, Jungr has been on an upward trajectory ever since.

As if to acknowledge her debt to Dylan, each of Jungr’s subsequent Linn albums has included at least two of his songs. She even included a couple each on her tribute albums to Elvis Presley and Nina Simone. As Jungr herself has said, "Once I had started singing Dylan’s songs, I couldn’t stop."

Released to coincide with Dylan’s 70th birthday, Man in the Long Black Coat is almost a sequel to Every Grain of Sand, in that it consists entirely of Dylan songs. However, it is not a completely new album. Instead, it compiles all the Dylan tracks from Jungr’s post-2002 Linn albums and adds versions of four Dylan songs not previously recorded by her.

As always, Jungr’s versions cannot be called covers as they radically reinvent the originals. They are most successful when they avoid superfluous embellishments and focus on Jungr’s voice, which expressively conveys every nuance of the lyrics. But a few tracks try too hard to introduce jazz elements; for instance, The Times They Are A-Changin’ really is not improved by the addition of a saxophone solo between verses.

Tellingly, the four new recordings are the most successful, evidence that Jungr continues to improve. Crucially, they all focus firmly on the piano and Jungr’s voice. With God On Our Side – its lyrics as relevant today as they were when first heard in 1964 – is given a rousing, impassioned reading. In complete contrast, a gorgeous version of Sara – Dylan’s poignant love song to his estranged wife – perfectly captures the fragile longing of his lyrics.

As a Dylan interpreter, Jungr is right up there with Simone or The Byrds. Thankfully, Dylan has written over 200 songs, so we can hope to see more fine Jungr albums like this.

"How Does It Feel to Adapt Dylan’s Songs for a Cabaret Setting?"

It may sound outlandish: a British female cabaret singer interpreting Bob Dylan accompanied by a piano instead of a guitar. But Barb Jungr, a fearless iconoclast who dives into the deepest waters of popular song to wrest exotic treasure from the ocean floor, delivered a fiery personal tutorial on Mr. Dylan at Tuesday’s opening-night performance of her show “Man in the Long Black Coat” at the Metropolitan Room.
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Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Barb Jungr performing on Tuesday at the Metropolitan Room.

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Her subject, she observed wryly in her preface to “Things Have Changed,” a mysterious song from the movie “Wonder Boys,” is “not really in touch with his feminine side.” What woman, she asked mischievously, could relate to lines like “Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet/Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street?” Good question.

Ms. Jungr’s ebullient comic sensibility is far removed from Mr. Dylan’s grim-reaper attitude. True: there is plenty of humor in Dylan, but it’s often edged with contempt. Ms. Jungr can build up a head of rage, but arrogance and outright cruelty are barely discernible in her expressive arsenal.

A sneering put-down like “It Ain’t Me Babe,” a song that she acknowledged has a mean kick in its suggestion that the narrator sending away a lover has another woman in his bed, was softened, its title phrase delivered in a tender, near-whisper. “Like a Rolling Stone” was scaled back from a triumphal rant into a more reflective conversational monologue.

The high points of a show that steadily built in intensity were Ms. Jungr’s renditions of “Sara,” arguably Mr. Dylan’s greatest love song, with its indelible images of the beloved: “Scorpio sphinx in a calico dress,” “radiant jewel, mystical wife.” It brought out the warmth and beauty of Ms. Jungr’s quieter voice.

She uses her entire body to interpret lyrics, and there were moments on Tuesday when she flailed around the stage as though wrestling with a song in her effort to inhabit its essence. The show reached a ferocious peak with her rendition of “Blind Willie McTell,” Dylan’s evocation of the bluesman as a seer whose voice and vision encapsulate the history of slavery and its legacy of suffering.

Neither Ms. Jungr nor her pianist, Tracy Stark, pretended to be blues musicians. They did it their way, and it landed with an explosion.

- The New York Times


Solo albums

"Fists of Violets" (2012)

Albums with Luminescent Orchestrii

"Neptune's Daughter" (2009, Nine Mile Records)
"Too Hot to Sleep" (2005)
"Luminescent Orchestrii" (2003)

Sarah performs with the Luminescent Orchestrii, Hoppin John Stringband has worked with Dan Zanes, Astrograss. She has toured and taught internationally, hosting workshops in traditional folk music. As curator, Alden co-organizes The Balkan Shout Out, a yearly benefit for the Eastern European Folklife Center.



Similarities abound between the old-time American music tradition and Balkan folk, but the latter genre provides a form of social intimacy that Sarah Alden knows all too well. On her debut record as a solo artist, Fists of Violets, Alden’s plaintive exploration of life on the margins of a working-class Ohio town is aided by her keening fiddle that drives much of the action. Alden modeled her own band on the eclectic melting pot of New York City musicians that make up her social network.
And it was her harmonizing with bandmate Rima Fand of New York’s Romanian gypsy punk outfit Luminescent Orchestrii that garnered high praise in both the local tight-knit traditional circles and the international world music community. “The balancing of this frenzy and finesse is evidently a trademark of the Luminescent Orchestrii approach,” started a four-star review in The (Edinburgh) Scotsman.
Alden wanted to further explore the aggressive and fragile harmonic dynamics on her first outing in the spotlight, while drawing parallels between Eastern and Western roots music. During the recording stage, this old-time fiddle player made pit stops in Serbian balladry, western swing, early jazz and human beatbox as well.
Luminescent founder Sxip Shirey also employed his esoteric melodies to paint a lush and dense soundscape on Fists of Violets with stream-of-consciousness instrumentation. His experimentation lends an orchestral palette to most of the proceedings with a noise-pop eclecticism on album closer “Come Take A Trip on My Airship.”
But the true genesis of Fists of Violets started in the form of a family black sheep.
“My aunt would have these bonfires over at her house and would invite all these musicians over for dinner. People would sit around and drink, play music in an unpretentious way and loose with so much joy,” Alden says.
She captured the memories of her aunt’s folk songs for producer Joe Bass DeJarnette. Alden had become somewhat of an expert at engaging children folk music, so much so that she took a part-time teaching position at underfunded arts programs in New York public schools and toured the world as a cultural ambassador for the US state department.
“Everyone has a judgement about the United States. It’s so engrained in everything, no matter how far off you go,” Alden says of traveling abroad. “But when we shared stories of the farmer or worker and our struggles with race and inequality, it proved that we have more in common with these countries and less room for hate. Music and cultural exchanges can make this world a less hostile place.”
Fists of Violets is a testament to that message. She bridges the common ground, so that the distances between places, communities and music genres seem to be within a hand’s reach of Alden’s little world.