CD REVIEW QUOTES

The many hues of Natalie's voice and personality gleam on the 12-track disc, Once again, the dynamic Douglas is potent...the rare artist with the command and gravitas that make her eligible to convincingly carry the traditions. And the unblinking indictment about lynching introduced by Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit," is a shiver-inducing naked cry of pain that co-exists with grand musical beauty. Indeed, there is much heartache and heartbreak in Douglas and (musical director) Hartman’s Human Heart, but the human spirit ultimately emerges and sails on. -TALKIN’ BROADWAY

With this recording, Douglas will carve her own brand of genius. A vocalist whose rich style varies from blues and jazz to gospel and some potent political hymns, this compelling album showcases the breadth of her special talent. HIghlights include Ahrens and Flaherty’s “The Human Heart” (Once on This Island) and a few distinct songs from the Nina Simone canon that include a languid and blissfully realized “Mr. Bojangles” that is one of the album’s best cuts. A shattering “Mississippi Goddam” echoes all the divinity and rage that was Simone’s sung in a burst of vocal triumph. In an age of cookie cutter singers, Natalie Douglas is unique. This emotion-packed album is a collection of her favorites in the key of life—her life. It all works because she’s authentic. And that’s what it takes to be the real thing. This is an album that deserves attention for all the right reasons. - CABARET SCENES



CD RELEASE CONCERT REVIEW QUOTES

Douglas has amassed a bountiful collection of vocal-emotional tools and techniques which she wields expertly to capture and convey the precise feeling of each song, taking the audience on a journey of spirit and artistry through the subtle contours of the human heart. While every song was performed beautifully, the most affecting part of the evening was the one-two punch of "Strange Fruit," written by Abel Meeropol and made famous by Billie Holiday, into "Mississippi Goddamn," written by Nina Simone. Douglas delivered "Strange Fruit" wearing an austere gaze, singing with a delicate intimacy that gave this reviewer goose bumps. Douglas spoke between verses of "Mississippi Goddamn": "Miss Nina said this was a show tune, but the show hadn't been written yet. She could not have imagined this election year!" Douglas made her voice blunt, full of anger and strength. Not everyone can sing these songs - they are privileged material - and Douglas does right by them. Douglas has amassed a bountiful collection of vocal- emotional tools and techniques which she wields expertly to capture and convey the precise feeling of each song, taking the audience on a journey of spirit and artistry through the subtle contours of the human heart. - BROADWAY WORLD

Human Heart consists of some of Douglas’ favorite tunes – many political, some sentimental, some gimlet-eyed – spanning decades of the finest songwriting. It ranges from uptempo gems like Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s beloved “The Best Is Yet to Come” to gorgeous showtunes such as Robert Waldman’s “Sleepy Man” (from The Robber Bridegroom), Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “It Never Was You” (from Knickerbocker Holiday), Jerome Kern and Oscar Hamerstein II’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” (from Show Boat), and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “The Human Heart” (from Once on This Island). As magnificently as Douglas performed all these songs, to call each of them highlights of Monday’s show is only to tell part of the story. Her renditions of two Billie Holiday classics, “I Must Have That Man” and the still-searing “Strange Fruit,” were absolutely stunning in their conviction, as were her inspired takes on Nina Simone’s anger-filled “Mississippi Goddamn” and Abbey Lincoln’s gorgeously philosophical “Throw It Away.” And then there is what I’ve long considered Douglas’ greatest triumph: her peerless interpretation of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles.” Arranged by the great Mark Hartman in a much slower style than the ones used by either Nina Simone or Sammy Davis Jr., the song’s best-known interpreters, it becomes in Douglas’ hands the ultimate “story song,” elucidating clearly the sad-yet-hopeful tale of a drunkard in a New Orleans jail who still gets pleasure from his ability to dance. If you’re not smiling through tears (or maybe crying through a grin) as Douglas sings the last word (“dance”), well, maybe you don’t have a human heart.Douglas’ greatest triumph. - THEATER PIZZAZZ

Douglas touched the audience with universal emotions and experiences of the human heart. Her lustrous mezzo vocals were melodious in this passionate compendium of songs that strike the heart with special potency. With a sound all her own, matchless phrasing and passionate commitment, Douglas was striking with a selection of fiercely personal songs. Her signature delivery of "Mr. Bojangles (Jerry Jeff Walker) isa profound lesson in storytelling, much like Nina Simone's “Mississippi Goddam,” resonating with her outrage in response to the four black children killed in a church bombing. Abbey Lincoln's response to pain was "Throw It Away," and Douglas delivered it with meticulous interpretation. Acknowledging the world we all live in, Natalie Douglas' Human Heart was a performance that blazed with significance and stunning musical power. - CITY CABARET

 

Winning cheer after cheer from the packed house, her program ranged from popular and show songs to the socially significant. Among the former were: “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Kern and Hammerstein from Show Boat), with her interpretation highlighting the song’s emotion and artistry; “The Best Is Yet to Come (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh), featuring a bright piano solo by Hartman; and a lullaby, “Sleepy Man” (by Robert Waldman and Alfred Uhry from The Robber Bridegroom). Also on tap, in a loving rendition: Jerry Jeff Walker’s gentle tribute to a dancer, “Mr. Bojangles.” Douglas, however, has always been a crusader against injustice, and this aspect emerged strongly throughout her show with two Abbey Lincoln songs, “Wholly Earth” and “Throw It Away”; Nina Simone’s half-century-old anti-segregation song, “Mississippi Goddam,” and Abel Meeropol’s classic, “Strange Fruit,” which evoked an especially powerful performance from Douglas – and cheers from the audience. A special pleasure in seeing Douglas’ shows over time (a dozen years, for a total of 39 shows, as she told her Birdland audience) is to see the increasing strength, sureness and beauty in her performing. Her audience clearly realized it, too—giving her, as she stepped off the stage at the end of her evening, a standing ovation. - CABARET SCENES

 

 

Photo by Bill Westmoreland

© 2020 by NATALIE DOUGLAS