The sound balance on the CDs is especially good, with Buckley blending perfectly with her band, and audience response kept to a minimum. The performer has done fabulous recordings with full symphony orchestras, but there is an intimacy enveloping “Story Songs” that gives us an even greater appreciation of the interpretive skills of this veteran.
The voice has deepened since the days of “He Plays the Violin” in “1776” and it sounds richer in this simple but elegant setting.
The Joe’s Pub CD includes a few biographical introductions that set up the songs beautifully. Buckley talks about working with the blacklisted actor Howard DeSilva on his big return to the New York theater as Benjamin Franklin in “1776.” Prickly at first, the veteran quickly warmed up to his young co-star and he eventually asked that she sing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” at his funeral. The Joe’s Pub rendition is magnificent.
Buckley also talks about another theater legend, Elaine Stritch, as a “guardian angel” before she delivers her own potent take on one of Stritch’s signature songs “I’m Still Here.”
The career anecdotes and the songs that seem to add up to a new Betty Buckley play left me wishing that, at some point, the star will do a full-scale autobiographical show in the vein of Stritch’s “At Liberty.”