Natalie Nicole Gilbert’s “Warm Winter” doesn’t pretend to be the usual upbeat holiday album; for that matter it’s more winter than holiday in theme.
Off the bat the EP starts with a song of heartbreak (Falling, a Harry Styles piano ballad cover), lovingly overlaid with lush strings – 28 tracks of violins, violas and cellos in full holiday form. Styles’ “Falling” lyrics asking “What if I’m down?” and “What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” has a different and even more honest ring in a Covid lockdown era.
Picking up the pieces the track list slides into a romantic jazz piece before returning to melancholy meandering through Vincent van Gogh’s snow laden landscapes in Starry, Starry Night. The tracks catapult us back to wizened optimism with a beat driven That Will Be Christmas (with Take 6’s Grammy nominated Jarret Johnson and Lisa Ramey of the Voice) on to a child-like pursuit of world peace in Grown Up Christmas List.
Some will recognize Walking in the Air from the long popular movie The Snowman (sung in the original rendition by a St. Paul’s Cathedral choirboy, now lushly met with all the ethereal texture 2020 can provide).
The first recording for the new album began in August 2019 when Dana Bisignano and Natalie Nicole Gilbert worked up a winter lullaby rendering of Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) for a class at UCLA – Anatomy of a Pop Song. After recording 12 solo albums worth of originals Natalie Nicole took a plunge into reimagined covers and fresh arrangements of songs both well-known and long since forgotten. That Will Be Christmas was released to CCM radio around 2000 but most mainstream listeners aren’t familiar with the soulful holiday tune. While David Foster’s “Grown Up Christmas List” has long been a staple of holiday albums by artists with strong vocal chops and a love for minor chords, here it gets an updated breath of fresh air with strings and beats alongside the more traditional piano. The project also includes robust covers of Stevie Nicks’ Landslide and Joni Mitchell’s River.
Collaborators on the project include composer and violin player Andrew Joslyn, whose work you’ve likely previously heard on any number of pop projects from Leslie Odom Jr. to Macklemore and Lewis, among many others. Dana Bisignano and Jonathan Still are both film and TV composers who’ve mastered the cinematic scope of epic to sparse and back again, and both bring their piano skills to the orchestral tracks. Warren Pettey joins for the first time on this project adding a soulful jazz piano, and the jazz goes full blown in Wrapped Up in a Dream Called You with Steve Rice on piano and Jay Thomas on that dreamy tenor sax solo, joined by Devan Stovall on drums and Cary Black on bass.
Song Title Total Run Time
Falling (Extended Album Cut) 3:57
Wrapped Up in a Dream Called You 5:05
Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) 5:34
Grown Up Christmas List 4:25
That Will Be Christmas 4:29
What Child Of Kings 4:03
Walking in the Air 3:33
Pie Jesu 3:21
Falling (Bonus: Styles Radio Edit 3:24)
Additional Artist/Song Information:
Artist Name: Natalie Nicole Gilbert
Song Title: Falling
Publishing: Natalie Nicole Gilbert
Publishing Affiliation: BMI
Album Title: Warm Winter
Record Label: Harbor Road Entertainment