GhostlightBy Gail Bennison, Fort Worth Magazine September 24, 2014
Betty Lynn Buckley and T Bone Burnett were both 19 years old and living in Fort Worth when they began making music together. Buckley is one of theater’s most respected and legendary leading ladies, often referred to as “The Voice of Broadway.” Burnett is renowned for his brilliant involvement in music, film, TV and stage projects.
The album title is intriguing, coming from the tradition in a theater where, after the performance in the dark theater, a lone bald light bulb is left on a stand in the center of the stage. Called a ghost light, it is technically spelled as two words.
Buckley says they named the album Ghostlight, as one word, because she thought it was prettier that way. Ghostlight was recorded in the legendary Village Studios in Los Angeles.
The album’s music pairs beautifully with the title. Ghostly haunting, Burnett describes the sound as “crime jazz, giving the project a timeless feel.”
“I’ve always liked that atmosphere in the theater,” Buckley says. “When the performance is done, I’ve got this ritual where I go to the ghost light and thank the theater and bless it and ask it to bless me to come back.”
T Bone Burnett, a 13-time GRAMMY Award winner with four decades of experience in music and entertainment, has earned an incomparable status as a songwriter, producer, performer, innovative artist, concert producer, record company owner and artists’ advocate.
Burnett received his latest statue in 2013 in the category of “Best Song Written for Visual Media,” along with collaborators Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams and John Paul White. The foursome composed Safe and Sound for the blockbuster film, The Hunger Games.
“[Betty] was certainly a new model of that great American artist in her ability to cover a lot of ground,” Burnett says. “She wasn’t bound by the strictures and trends of our generation. She moved skillfully from theater to film to television and across an extremely wide range of music.”
Buckley was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for 2012.
She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. She received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a musical for her performance as Hesione in Triumph of Love, and an Olivier Award nomination for her interpretation of Norma Desmond in the London production of Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, which she repeated in rave reviews on Broadway.
Buckley has starred in numerous films, and on television, she co-starred for three seasons in the HBO series Oz and as Abby Bradford in the hit series Eight Is Enough.
Buckley has recorded 16 CDs. More recently, she received a Drama Desk Nomination for “Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play” for her performance this season in the World Premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends in New York City.
When Buckley and Burnett were planning for the sessions that became Ghostlight, their path was clear. They set the recording in a dangerous nightclub in Forties Los Angeles, which Burnett describes as “a dark room filled with smoke and faithless lovers and desperate characters. The material would be from the extraordinary musical archeology she has done over the years since we made our first recording together,” Burnett says.
“It is our hope that you get the same kind of pleasure listening to these songs and these musicians and this singer that we had in making it, that you find your way into the clandestine place that was conjured, and that you get some of what we are all looking for when we find ourselves in that shadow world,” he says.
Buckley says it’s been satisfying that two musicians that grew up in Fort Worth during the same time period and then went off in different directions in the business, came back together. “Both of us feel there should be no boundaries in styles of music, that it shouldn’t be so categorical,” she says. “It just should be that good music is good music and good songs are good songs, wherever they come from.”
Ghostlight is not easy to categorize, Buckley says. “It’s a timeless piece of art, and we’re very proud of it. My recommendation is to take your time, sit in front of a fire with a great bottle of wine, alone or with your beloved, put the record on and let the music wash over you and take you on a soul journey. Allow yourself to remember and dream.”