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Bruner - Songs for a Friend

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Artist: Bruner

Album: Songs for a Friend

Label: The Numero Group

Review date: Apr. 23, 2010

The Numero Group specializes in unearthing lost sounds. Some of them are so compelling that in better circumstances they could have hit it big, while some selections cater to the “so wrong it’s right” aesthetic. File Linda Bruner’s case in the former category, because even though Songs for a Friend doesn’t sound like most people’s idea of a hit, it testifies to an undeniable talent that never really got a chance.

Reportedly Bruner is now a fugitive from bad check charges, but in 1970, she was the teenaged singer for a psychedelic rock band called Pisces. If they’d hit the right stage at the right time, they might have gone places, or at least had their talented lead singer poached. But since they came from Rockford Ill., they put out a couple singles on a dinky local label and called it a day.

To date Bruner’s four tracks on the Pisces retrospective A Lovely Sight have been the only evidence of her merits; Songs for a Friend shows what she could do on her own, and it’s considerable. Well, not quite on her own. Pisces guitarist accompanies her on these six songs, which were recorded in the back of a music shop on a borrowed tape deck, and this release preserves some snatches of their dialogue, which indicate that Bruner could be a tad waspish.

The recording was never meant for commercial release, and wrong notes and overloaded mics betray its amateur status. But they don’t distract from Bruner’s qualities as a singer and interpreter. Her voice is huge but supple, able to shrink and quiver, then come back broad as the sky. She has a natural instinct for ornamentation, applying just enough vibrato or volume to underscore a lyric without distracting from it.

One short original aside, her song selection is purely heard-it-on-the-radio stuff; the Beatles, Derek and the Dominos, Ray Charles, Jimmy Webb by way of Glenn Campbell. Her version of “Wichita Lineman” could flatten hills. Campbell’s version transcended Webb’s rather muddled lyric (I can never decide if it’s about a mild case of the blues or bad bought with heroin) with a lush arrangement and earnest lyricism, but Bruner sounds a well of longing so deep you could meet a land of lost dinosaurs trying to find its bottom. She delivers “Don’t Bring Me Down” equally persuasively, slowing it to a dirge and lofting each word so that it soars over the minimal guitar accompaniment with the assuredness and grace of a hovering eagle.

Bruner’s youth might have made her a more appropriate singer for this song than John Lennon; even if he really believed that he hadn’t loved anyone before Yoko, he already knew that forever was beyond his reach. Most teenagers don’t, and there’s not a trace of doubt when Bruner nails the line “A love that lasts forever, a love the has no past.” But most teenagers don’t have the vocal chops Bruner had on that day 40 years ago in Rockford.

By Bill Meyer

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