From the outset it's clear that Margie Baker knows the music and loves the songs she sings. She's a competent vocalist with a groovin' big band giving her superior backing. The quality of performance is consistent throughout the two discs of this set.
Margie Baker tries hard but still comes off as a very talented amateur and not, as she admits in her patter, "a full-time singer." It's hard to define what exactly is the line between the two, but throughout this set it feels as though Baker has not yet crossed over.
The liner notes point out that this artist "has been wowing audiences for more than thirty years in hotels, nightclubs, and concert halls," but based on other comments in the notes and in her own patter, it's clear she has always played home-court, performing for local audiences and friends.
At the local level, Baker is certainly star-quality. It's always easier to be the big fish in the small pond.Baker is also an academic with a very dry university degree and decades as an educator and school administrator. At times it feels like this on-stage Baker is still in academic mode, not quite comfortable enough to just break loose and let herself go. There's a great deal of feeling in her performances, but not a whole lot of the exuberance some of these songs demand.
At the beginning of the set, really just between and during the first few songs, Baker tries on a bit of patter. These bits of talk are not so much interesting as just irritating, interrupting as they do the music. Baker is addressing her local audience, people who have been listening to her live for three decades, so they may find what she has to say of some interest.
When recording her performance for national distribution, Baker and her producers should consider other listeners are less familiar with Baker's personal life and may just not care. Fortunately, for the rest of the set, Baker pretty much sticks to singing the songs.