The disc's 13 selections are all by contemporary composers; McDonald sang many of them when she christened the 2005 American Songbook series at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall. Build a Bridge includes two songs by her close friend Adam Guettel, "Dividing Day" (from The Light in the Piazza) and the title track; two by 1960s pop goddess Laura Nyro, "To A Child" and "Tom Cat Goodbye"; and Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello's pop hit "God Give Me Strength."
Also featured on the CD are songs by Oscar winner Randy Newman ("I Think It's Going to Rain Today"), Nellie McKay ("I Wanna Get Married"), Jessica Molaskey and Ricky Ian Gordon ("Cradle and All"), John Mayer ("My Stupid Mouth"), Neil Young ("My Heart"), Jane Kelly Williams ("Wonderful You"), Joseph Raposo ("Bein' Green"), and Rufus Wainwright ("Damned Ladies").
The arrangements are by Doug Petty, who also plays on the CD. Other musicians featured are McDonald's longtime musical director Ted Sperling; jazz pianist Fred Hersch; drummer Shawn Pelton; guitarist Dan Petty; percussionist Jay Bellerose; and McDonald's husband, bassist Peter Donovan.
McDonald has won Tony Awards for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel and Ragtime, and Tonys for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Master Class and A Raisin in the Sun. She also received a Best Actress Tony nomination for Marie Christine. Next spring, she will star in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of the Tom Jones-Harvey Schmidt musical 110 in the Shade.