Attic musings: Linda Perhacs rediscovered

Linda Perhacs rediscovered

During college hanging-around-the-student-radio-station days, I would often sit with headphones on and listen to the new album releases, usually from someone I never heard of but they must be good because someone recorded their album, right?

Sometimes an album would blow me so far out of the water that I had to tell everyone I knew, “Holy cow, you gotta hear this album.” If there was a turntable nearby, I would sit them down and make them listen. If you knew me then, you probably remember that about me, and often you would nod patronizingly and say, “Sure, Warren, very nice, thank you.”

But a handful of albums really sank in. One of them was Parallelograms by Linda Perhacs. I think several of my friends actually went out and bought the album after hearing it.

Undeservedly obscure for way too long, Parallelograms is a sensual, hypnotic collection of lilting songs that has been described as “psychedelic folk,” and it does invoke images of girls in mini-skirts tucking flowers into the barrels of guns with gentle smiles. In fact, there are flowers and a mini-skirt on the album cover. No guns, of course.

“And it rains here every day since I came, and the lichen covers rocks and the green finds everything, Chimacum Rain.”

What kind of lyrics are those? But she makes it magical.

Perhacs believes Kapp Records did a dreadful mix, compressing the sound and losing much of its subtle beauty, but enough survived that the album gained a cult following (Yes, Virginia, I’m a cult member, I actually belong to many cults, and this is one). One of us went looking for Linda Perhacs throughout the 1990s, finally giving up and putting out a CD recorded off the old vinyl, but then he searched one last time and found her.

She was working as a dental hygienist in California, where she had been all along, and to hear the guy tell the story, she said, “You’re using the wrong mix; I still have the master tapes, do you want to hear them?” digging the magical original recordings out of her closet.

The cleaned-up and reissued album gained enough of a following to justify the first live performances of her life, and calls for more music, and …

In 2014, Perhacs released a second album, The Soul of All Natural Things, which I finally tracked down and purchased (on vinyl, of course, the way God intended music to be preserved).

Holy cow, you gotta hear this album.

Forty-five years after Parallelograms, her delicate voice sounds a little more fragile, but that was part of its appeal anyway. Her new songs are as hypnotic as the old ones. It’s like meeting an old friend and picking up where the two of you left off years and years ago.

There’s a third album, I’m A Harmony, made in 2016, that just arrived on the doorstep and after one listen, I’m still charmed.

Great work is eventually found, and never mind about the gap of decades. Linda Perhacs is back and making memorable music in her 70s – a new entry in the canon of “It’s never too late, so keep creating as long as you can.”