Long-lost tunes by singer Linda Bruner comprise wrenching 'Songs for a Friend'

This is one of those weird stories best suited to rock ‘n’ roll: In maybe 1970, a 17-year-old high school girl recorded a handful of songs in the back of a music store in Rockford, Ill., accompanied on acoustic guitar by a member of Pisces, a local psychedelic rock band.

The singer, Linda Bruner, is thought to have recorded the songs — five covers and an original — in between doing some vocal work with Pisces and releasing a 45 single on a local label. Whenever the recording happened, the songs languished in a box of Pisces reel-to-reels for decades, and Bruner dropped out of music and embarked instead on a life as a fugitive: now in her 60s, she’s apparently wanted by authorities in connection with some kind of check fraud situation.

Chicago label Numero Group discovered the tape from her makeshift recording session a few years ago when readying a 2009 Pisces retrospective, and it’s not hard to guess what held the company’s interest: Bruner sings with emotion so raw it sometimes borders on terrifying on a collection Numero has titled “Songs for a Friend.” Bruner’s original tune, “Song Linda Wrote Herself,” opens the 20-minute album, showing greater depth than most 17-year-old writers can muster, but it’s on the covers where she truly lets loose.

She sounds at once desperate and inconsolable on “Wichita Lineman,” her rough voice cracking here and there as Jim Krier plays chords along with her. You can only picture him shying back in whatever makeshift studio they set up, afraid of getting singed by the blowtorch heat of Bruner’s forceful performance. She sings Derek and the Dominos’ “Thorn Tree in the Garden” in duskier tones, her voice sometimes catching as though she’s choking back a sob.

Her “Georgia on My Mind” has nothing on Ray Charles’, or Willie Nelson’s, but Bruner’s take on the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” is as devastating as a song can sound: Her voice quivers with heartbroken resignation on the verses and grows piercing and defiant on the chorus, the barest hint of acoustic guitar tentatively following her lead.

“Songs for a Friend” ends with “Rainy Night in Georgia,” by which point Bruner sounds like she herself has been soaked through. “Start it over, I’ve got an idea,” she says two-thirds of the way through. Her idea, though, is lost to the ages: the song abruptly cuts off 35 seconds later.

It’s an appropriately incomplete bookend to an enigmatic sonic snapshot from 40 years ago, one that would have been lost altogether save for a lucky accident of rediscovery — lucky for Numero, and maybe for Bruner, but most definitely for us.

— Text by Eric R. Danton, photo courtesy of Numero Group.

  3 comments for “Long-lost tunes by singer Linda Bruner comprise wrenching 'Songs for a Friend'

  1. May 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    It’s Linda, not Laura.

  2. Listen, Dammit
    May 25, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Oof, sorry about that. Fixed.

  3. July 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

    ~GOOD ARTICLE~

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