Although this Christmas compilation includes tracks by Katy Perry and Colbie Caillat, two hyper-marketable artists for the 2008 holiday season, the true appeal of Winter Songs is the spotlight it gives to emerging musicians. Nicole Atkins channels Roy Orbison's honeyed, vibrato-laden croon during "Blue Christmas," Ingrid Michaelson duets with Sarah Bareilles during the sparse "Winter Song," and Lenka reprises the bubbly sounds of her debut album (almost to saccharine effect) with an original song named "All My Bells Are Ringing." The biggest highlights arrive later in the set list, when Meiko sexily rasps her way through "Maybe Next Year (X-Mas Song)," perhaps the best original composition here, and Priscilla Ahn sings a gorgeous a cappella arrangement of "Silent Night." The latter song is the disc's crown jewel, a lush mixture of sustained notes and pitch-perfect intervals that emphasize Winter Songs' true focus: the talents of the Hotel Café's alumni, not the cheap appeal of someone like Katy Perry, whose wannabe jazz interpretation of "White Christmas" is as vanilla as the songtitle suggests.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey