Songs For A Friend
August 3, 2013 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Around 1970, in the back of Nielsen's Music Store, 17-year-old Linda Bruner recorded one original and five cover songs to a portable half-track borrowed from ALS Studios while accompanied by Jim Krein: Song Linda Wrote Herself, Wichita Lineman, Thorn Tree In The Garden, Georgia On My Mind, Don't Let Me Down, and Rainy Night in Georgia.

Bruner also recorded several vocals for Krein's band Pisces. Her current whereabouts are unknown. An article from the Oregon Music News and the Numero Group's catalog listing provide a bit of context.
posted by Going To Maine (12 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
Mercy, her version of Don’t Let Me Down knocked me right in the gut,
bringing tears to my eyes.
posted by quazichimp at 11:07 PM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Goddamn that's great. Thanks.
posted by googly at 11:56 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

One time I was hiking alone through a park at nightfall. It was rocky, there were steep falls and tree roots and ledges and it was probably a bad idea, but it was a beautiful night.

About ten feet below me on a ledge, I heard a girl sobbing quietly on a ledge. I stopped, partly to not violate her privacy and partly to listen and make sure she was not injured or worse. I moved where I could see her - she was by herself, and seemed physically OK, but sad.

She began to sing a sad love song, just for herself, and I stayed where I was because it was so honest and beautiful - I don't recall the song, but I recall the quality of her voice. She didn't hold back, because she didn't know anyone was there. She wasn't a pro, it wasn't perfect, but it was raw and true and her voice cracked and she fucked up and it didn't matter. It was magic she was doing for herself alone and I stayed hidden and still because I didn't want to break the spell.

Don't Bring Me Down reminded me of that.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:01 AM on August 4, 2013 [15 favorites]

In her sixties and on the lam for fraud? I think I'm in love...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:17 AM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hm, easily googled, although not much of a presence. And she runs a business that seemingly wouldn't be possible if "on the run for check fraud", so presumably those charges have escaped statutes of limitations or she's paid the piper on them.
posted by dhartung at 2:25 AM on August 4, 2013

Wow, clearly some real, though raw, talent there. I found these unexpectedly moving, perhaps partly because of, rather than despite, the various imperfections. (And they're also a potent reminder of how much a lot of the recorded music we hear is endlessly fussed over.) Makes one wonder what might have been if she'd kept on with it.

Which bring up something else interesting - as dhartung noted, an online search shows someone by this name, and apparently the right age, still with an address in Rockford, maybe four or five miles, tops, from where these songs were recorded.

Though none of the links mention any efforts to locate Bruner, I can't help but wonder if anyone picked up the phone, or sent a letter saying, "Hey, are you the person that recorded this?" Yes, these songs were made a lifetime ago, so maybe she wouldn't even want to be bothered....but, you know, there are plenty of musicians and singers in their early sixties still performing and recording. I'm just sayin'...
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:57 AM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Aww, HELL yeah. HELL yeah. Yes yes. This young woman is reaching me, I tell you. That there's only the opening verse and chorus of Rainy Night in Georgia fucking tears me up, it really does. God damn, she was working it. I so wanted to hear more.

Georgia, wow, she brings herself to it, she's there. All the way.

Don't Let Me Down is killer. Very few singers, then or now, would go that far out on that stark, unforgiving limb she crawls out on. Laying her soul bare. I'd rather listen to her do this than 10,000 Beyonces or Amy Winehouses or who-have-you. This is expression of the highest order, raw and pure and uncompromisingly real.

Witchita Lineman, what a pleasure to hear her version of that fabulous song. Just points again to what great taste this 17-year-old had in songs to cover. I mean, damn, these are all (with one exception?) great songs, and not ones that most folks, honestly, have any business covering! You know what I mean, right? Haha! But she dove into the deep end and swam like a shark!

Thorn Three In The Garden is the only cover tune I wasn't intimately familiar with. Never heard it before. As a tune, well, I'm not that crazy about it. And in this one, Bruner puts too much *teariness* into the delivery, for me. But hey. Everything else is golden.

Her original was wonderful. Wish there had been more.

She's a godmother of Chan Marshall (AKA Cat Power), one might say. Although, for me, Bruner has more power, or, in some of these renditions, a reserve of power, behind her voice. In her lungs, in her spirit and soul. A similar fragility, here and there, sure, but mixed with the potential power of, yeah, say, Janis Joplin. A heady mix of weakness and strength that really turns me on, musically.

And she was only... seventeen? Holy christ. What the hell happened? Why didn't she keep recording? I can only imagine there was some utterly heartbreaking story behind that. Well, Linda Bruner, if you're out there and somehow stumble upon this little internet comment, let me just say that you are one hell of a singer, and your recording from 43 years ago (I was 13 years old when you recorded this, and had myself thrilled to the original of Don't Let Me Down just the year before) has MOVED me. Practically to tears.

And, Going To Maine, wow. Wow. Thanks SO much for this post. Best damn music post, in my opinion, to come down the Mefi pike in many a moon. Utterly thrilled to have discovered Linda Bruner here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:53 AM on August 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

i love the majority of that Pisces 'album' and knew i'd heard her voice before. i didn't read the full post and just dove into the songs and clicking back to the full post had an 'aha' moment seeing the connection. thanks.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:45 AM on August 4, 2013

We will never run out of the history of rock and roll.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:45 AM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

She's a godmother of Chan Marshall (AKA Cat Power), one might say.

Yeah, and similarly, I feel almost uncomfotable listening, like, are you sure you're OK with other people hearing this? Because damn...

I mean, I listen to that 'Don't Let Me Down' and if you told me she'd hanged herself the next week I would think Oh of course she did. It's almost like there's something wrong about being able to not only feel that way- I mean you're a teenager, it's suposed to be intense- but also to express it like that. It makes me fear for her soul, listening...

Her voice makes me think of Janis, sure, but also Karen Dalton and Judee Sill and if any of them could have just put down the microphone, and walked away, and ended up a fiesty old lady on the lam instead, I think I wish they would have.

Don't get me wrong... this is incredible and I'm glad it exists. But I'm also kind of glad there isn't more of it.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:26 PM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the comments! Just to round things out, here are the Pisces tracks on which Linda Bruner did the vocals: Dear One, Say Goodbye To John, Sam, and Are You Changing In Your Time. I do think the solo tracks are prettier, but these round out the material and are less likely to make you burst into tears.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:52 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Holy hell. These are gorgeous.

(Though it looks from the comments on this one that some other people are calling bullshit on the record label's version of her life story.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:23 AM on August 27, 2013

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