Hil St Soul, SOULdified, Black Rose, Copacetic and Cool
HIL ST SOUL @ SOUL-PATROL
I was there….And it was an excellent show!!! She did a nice selection of original soul/funk material from her new album "SOULdified" and a few Isley Brothers and Aretha Franklin covers as well. I got to speak with Hillary for a while after the show and she told me that she appriciates all of the support that everyone has shown for her since the release of her album "SOULdified".
PRESS RELEASE – Hil St Soul: "Black Rose"
As you all know, Hil St. Soul is one of my favorite "Nu Soul" artists.
I loved her last album "SOULidified" and I loved her live show, which I saw in Philly at the Grape Street Pub.
Here are the reviews…
Her new album is called "Black Rose", and is due for release in June. We already have the first single "The Sweetest Days" from the album in the rotation over on Nu Soul @ RadioIO.com (http://www.radioio.com/channels/nusoul
I’m pretty excited about all of this, so I figured that you wouldn’t mind me sharing this official press release with you.
Hil St. Soul
Singer Hilary Mwelwa of Hil St. Soul (pronounced Hill Street Soul) is not your average R&B diva. She holds a degree in biological sciences, hails from Zambia, grew up in London and admits to having a teenage fascination with the music of Annie Lennox and Blondie. In fact Hilary is anything but average. One listen to her bluesy honey-toned alto, poignant self-penned lyrics and soul-drenched vocal approach and it is obvious that this R&B diva is truly something special. Hil St. Soul’s two previous Shanachie Entertainment releases – 2004’s Copasetik & Cool and 2006’s SOULidified – both landed top 20 hits on the Urban AC charts and further established the R&B/soul duo (Hilary Mwelwa and Victor Redwood Sawyerr, founder of the UK hip hop group Blak Twang) as one of the most honest and refreshing R&B acts to emerge in years. USA Today calls Hil St. Soul’s vocals "Always enticing" while The Associated Press declares "Hil St. Soul has an organic soulful sound that is all their own." The duo has hit a stride that seems to be unstoppable. Hilary Mwelwa shares, "First and foremost Victor and I are good friends which has allowed us to maintain a great working relationship. We just seem to click creatively and find it easy to feed ideas off one another. It also helps that we have the same creative vision and goals."
On June 10, 2008, Shanachie Entertainment will release Hil St. Soul’s highly anticipated new and third recording, Black Rose. "Hil St. Soul has a unique niche on the R B/soul scene; in an era of cookie cutter production, they sound like no other artist," states Shanachie Entertainment General Manager Randall Grass. "Their uniqueness comes from their special blend of soul, hip hop and acoustic elements. At the center of their sound is the voice of Hilary Mwelwa who is one of a small number of true singers on the R&B scene today who has emerged in the last decade, with the capability to mesmerize an audience with the sheer quality of her singing whether backed by a full band or just an acoustic guitar."
Hil St. Soul’s Black Rose is a follow-up to the group’s last critically acclaimed CD, SOULifidied which The Baltimore Sun praised for its "delicious creamy vibe," and Blues and Soul Magazine heralded the CD as ‘the best urban album of the year’ and declared "SOULidified is as good as it gets." The album enjoyed great success at radio earning a Top 20 Urban AC hit with its first single "Goodbye," whose video also was in rotation on VH1 Soul and BETJ. The second single, "Hey Boy," (also a Top 20 hit) became a semi-theme song on Michael Baisden’s highly popular syndicated radio show when Hil St. Soul reworked "Hey Boy" to become "Bad Boy," in honor of Baisden aka "The Bad Boy of Radio." Hil St. Soul’s American debut, Copasetik & Cool (2004), also garnered a Top 20 slot on the Urban AC Charts with the song "Pieces." People Magazine said of Copasetik & Cool, "Mwelwa’s gospel charged vocals fire up tracks like the down-home ditty "I’ve Got Me," which highlights the positive attitude of the lyrics."
Hilary reflects "Black Rose differs from other recordings in that there is a natural growth and progression in terms of the songwriting, production and subject matter. I’ve grown and evolved as a person since my last CD and I share some of what I have learned and experienced on this album." Black Rose showcases Hilary Mwelwa’s trademark soul stirring, ultra smooth and hypnotic vocals along with her poetic and self-empowering lyrics and Victor Redwood Sawyerr’s tight head-nodding tracks and infectious grooves.
It is no wonder why Vibe Magazine has said Hilary’s "rich, velvety voice warms the inside like a spot of tea" and why The Boston Globe describes her voice as "a beguiling set of pipes with a whiff of Whitney here, a scoop of Chaka there " Black Rose features such highlights as the sensuous jam "Gravity" about the allure of falling in love and "Smile, "an uplifting anthem that is perfect for today’s fast paced and troubling times that encourages one to find happiness own personal oasis while "Ghetto," a funky syncopated number that reminds one to remember who you are and where you come from. An ethereal song about how the world has changed. Hilary quotes from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" asking the question "What happened to the world we knew?" Hilary explains, "’Sweetest Day’ is really about remembering and romanticizing about my childhood when everything seemed much calmer and rosier. I feel the world these days seems a lot colder and I wouldn’t want to be a child growing up in this day and age." Of special note is the bluesy and previously never before recorded India.Arie track called "Life."
Born in Lusaka, Zambia, Hilary Mwelwa relocated to London with her family at age five. As a child she adopted her father’s love of music, as their home was immersed with the sounds of traditional Zambian music along with such American R&B/soul icons as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. As a graduate of London’s Westminster University, Hilary had early ambitions to go into the science field and earned a degree in biological sciences. She shares, "While I was in school studying sciences, I started to explore my musical interests and I decided that I wanted to pursue music more seriously. I took a year off from school and during this time I recorded my first demo. I have never had formal music training but I was brought up on a diet of soul, R&B, Gospel and pop music from an early age." Luckily for us Hilary Mwelwa’s path has led her to follow her heart and her music. Hil St. Soul’s recording debut, Soul Organic, came out in 2000 on Dome Records and featured a cover of the Aretha Franklin classic "Until You Come Back To Me."
With the release of Black Rose Hil St. Soul is on their way to gaining the widespread attention they deserve as serious contenders on the R&B scene. Hilary confides, "I hope that when people get to hear Black Rose they will find themselves immersed in my world. At the end of the day the experiences I write and sing about are universal. I ultimately hope that my music can uplift people and make them feel like they have gotten to know a little bit more about me as a person."
For more information please contact Monifa Brown (973) 579-7763 EXT 26
PRESS RELEASE – Hil St Soul: "SOULidified"
Born in Lusaka, Zambia, Hilary Mwelwa relocated to London with her family at age five. As a child she adopted her fathers love of music, as their home was immersed with the sounds of traditional Zambian music along with such American R&B/soul icons as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. As a graduate of Londons Westminster University, Hilary had early ambitions to go into the science field and earned a degree in biological sciences. She shares, While I was in school studying sciences, I started to explore my musical interests and I decided that I wanted to pursue music more seriously. I took a year off from school and during this time I recorded my first demo. I have never had formal music training but I was brought up on a diet of soul, R&B, Gospel and pop music from an early age. Luckily for us Hilary Mwelwas path has led her to follow her heart and her music. She concludes, I could have pursued a nice comfortable career path but music is where my heart is. I do believe that everything you do in life leads you to your ultimate destiny. My personal motto is live life to the fullest and to spend your time doing what you love. You have to enjoy each day as if it were your last.
Im a fan of good music. The kind that hits you in the heart, mind and soul! says Hilary Mwelwa, the next British R&B phenomenon destined to win over American R&B and soul devotees. USA Today declares, Mwelwas vocals are always enticing while Vibe Magazine heralds Mwelwas rich, velvety voice warms the inside like a spot of tea. The 20-something year-old chanteuse along with her musical partner Victor Redwood Sawyer (founder of the award-winning hip hop group Blak Twang), make up Hil St. Soul, one of the hottest groups to emerge from Londons underground music scene in recent years. Hil St. Soul has toured with such individual artists as Macy Gray, Angie Stone and DAngelo.
Hil St. Souls highly anticipated new CD, SOULidified, is a follow-up to last years acclaimed Shanachie debut Copasetik & Cool. People Magazine said of Copasetik & Cool, Mwelwas gospel charged vocals fire up tracks like the down-home ditty Ive Got Me, which highlights the positive attitude of the lyrics while The Boston Globe declared, Mwelwa has a beguiling set of pipes- a whiff of Whitney here, a scoop of Chaka there
Highlights on SOULidified include the steamy and sexy duet with Dwele, Baby Come Over, the endearing and catchy Sweet On You, the soulful and inviting Hey Boy and the first single, a strikingly beautiful, pensive and emotional ballad Goodbye.
CD REVIEW – Hil St Soul – "SOULidified,"
In today’s crowded field of artists where the sound of pop Black music has been so homognized, it’s more important for vocalists to somehow stand out and show why "they’re different." Hil St. Soul’s Shanachie release, "SOULidified," is a little "schizophrenic" in the sense that it sometimes reaches strong points of individuality; but unfortunately, there are spots where the CD sometimes tends to sound downright "generic."
There’s a mix of the so-called "Neo-Soul" thing, mixed in with the overdone rhythm-dominated tracks. In many places, the musicality and feel of the instrumentation is effective; offbeat enough (in the "quirky" sense) to capture the ear of the listener. When there is use of instrumentation it leans to the former. That approach often feels fresh, given the fact that Black radio airwaves are pretty much overrun by bottom-heavy, rhythm-dominated tracks.
Unfortunately, the collection also contains what I call today’s "typical lack of subject range" in modern Black music lyrics. You can pretty much guess that with female singer-led discs, generally speaking, you are going to get either songs that are mostly about, lyrically speaking: a) relationships, or b) self-affiramation. For the most part, "SOULidified" follows this path.
One of the outstanding qualities of this collection is St. Soul’s use of tightly-voiced harmonies. It’s most effective on tracks like "Sweet On You," which also boasts a great feel through its instrumentation. "It’s OK" is sort of your typical "Indie.Arie-ish self-affirmation" track, but still enjoyable. "Goodbye" is a real fine ballad. Well-produced, with nice use of the guitar and piano. This track, in my opinion, could be St. Soul’s showcase tune, as she shows some vocal talents that are amongst the high points of the CD. The duet with Dwele, "Baby Come Over," also has a great feel to it.
"One Of A Kind" gives me the chord changes that I’m looking for to show how St. Soul as a solo voice can handle them. It sounds challenging, and St. Soul proves on this track that, as a singer, she’s can vocally negotiate tricky progressions successfully. Interestingly, it’s on this track that she utilizes more unison/octive background vocals rather than the tightly-voiced harmonies evident elsewhere on the CD. Yet, this is the "distinctive" track that allows St. Soul to find her own voice. Well-done.
The rhythm-dominated tracks, such as "Can We Spend Some Time Together" don’t always work–they tend to give the feeling of "I’ve heard this too many times before." The one rhythm-dominated track that has a chance to work, the ballad "We Don’t Talk," is bogged down by a refrain and bridge containing a keyboard part that sounds like it’s an electric accordion, no less. "Too Good To Be True" has a cliche-ic title and other "I’ve heard it before" elements; but gets saved by the harmonies that St. Soul employs.
Overall, Hil St. Soul brings forth a decent enough effort to merit attention. As a vocalist, the voice and the stylings are not distinctive enough to separate her from the pack of "today’s typical R & B female singer; but it is packaged on this set with good production, and that alone makes this CD work. I’ll give this three-and-a-half stars (out of five).
CONCERT REVIEW – Hil St Soul @ Ramshead, Annapolis MD
Nestled on the Chesapeake Bay is the capitol city of Annapolis, State of Maryland, recognized by many as "The Land of Pleasant Living". Here in my home town, excitement happens in leaps and bounds. For the African-American community in Annapolis, vocal acts, night clubs and hit records are frequently visited or/sought in near-by Baltimore or Washington D.C.
"The Rams Head Tavern-Where Great Minds Meet" (the actual full promotional name of our host club) our port-of-call in Annapolis, a "City By The Bay," occasionally known in other cities/states/countries as "Crab Town," what a special city, what a special night.
The night-life district in Annapolis was the focus of my musical wonderment on August 22, 2006, a night savoring the opportunity to float (a preferred-abstract description) on my "Home Turf," where I was introduced to members of "Hil St Soul", by manager Aaron Hercules and covered their Annapolis Debut performance as a member of their fast growing "Hil St Soul Data-Base".
Phenomenon British song stylist Hilary Mwelwa, is a Beautiful Brown Sista (smile) born in Lusaka, Zambia Africa. The London based vocalist and band on an East Coast Tour, engaged a one night stop at the Ram’s Head in Annapolis, just blocks from the historic entry-port docking site of Kunta Kenta.
Hilary and her partner Victor Redwood Sawyer (founder of the award winning hip hop group Blak Twang) make up "Hil St Soul", an amazing group that has shared the stage with Macy Gray, Angie Stone, and DeAngelo. Vibe and People Magazine, USA Today and The Boston Globe Newspapers recognize Hilary’s musical accomplishments, treating her richly and kindly with mellow descriptions of a vocal range that seems to hypnotize the ears with melodic vibrations, closely mimicking the likes of Phylis Hymen, Aretha Franklin, Micky Howard, and Chaka Khan.
On this special night, Hilary Mwelwa, birthed in the Mother-Land, is the "Marquee Star," enjoying the freedoms of the 21st century, where patrons pay to be captivated, pay to enjoy and become inspired listening to her "Vocal Tales of Whoa," a noticeable comparison to former African Females who (back in the day, circa 1753) were captured, shipped in chains from the continent of Africa, auctioned and sold into slavery at the Annapolis, Maryland’s City Dock, five minutes walking distance from "Rams Head Tavern," to the nearby site of the Alex Haley Statue (which marks the historic arrival spot of Kunt Kente) facing her future to slave, and to slave, and to slave.
Minutes before the dimming of lights (a creative warning for show time) I flash backed long forgotten images of irony (which actually tingled my mental juices). I wondered if the "Hil St Soul" vocal Diva Hilary was aware of the historic significant of Annapolis, the past and present accomplishments of African Females who visited or settled in our capitol city. Was she informed "The Ram’s Head Tavern" is only a few doors from the beautifully restored Reynolds Tavern, the oldest tavern in Annapolis and one of the oldest Taverns in the U.S.? Was there a whisper in her dressing room that back in the day (1751-1958) an African Female was allowed entry to a tavern only to wash dishes, empty spitoons, scrub floors, and bed-warm the Massa?
Patiently awaiting the "Hil St Soul Show" to virtually "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker," I silently mulled over personal mental comparisons of night club-activity in Annapolis "back in the day." Born and raised in Annapolis, I instantly recalled the "Juke Joint" atmosphere of names like "Susie’s Tee Room" and "The Elks," both dubbed "Colored Clubs," both formally down the street and four minutes, slow walking distance from where I was seated. Immediately it came to mind that half a century ago, night life entertainment (club-entry) was out of the question for Afro-Americans and Africans on this very street the Rams Head now occupy (West Street, Annapolis) the two clubs I mentioned were never frequented by mixed races (a sign of the times) but on this night, I was surrounded by brothers and sisters of different hues and colorful skin tones. My companions in this fabulous showroom were an assortment of racial backgrounds and as colorful as a Mason Jar full of Skittles.
Even before the dimming of house lights, it seemed apparent everyone felt they would experience something special. Suddenly, the star-bright night gave way to a new order of musical sound called "Hil St Soul." As the syncopation of the band influenced pulsating finger-tips and tapping feet, the audience quickly realized refreshing entertainment of a tight five-member band in tandem with a memorable-mellow sounding male & female back-up duo.
The moment Hilary graced the stage, there was an instant "Sock It To Me" flow of non-stop action, the Diva impacted every inch of the "Ram’s Head Showroom," transforming it into another dimension of musical wonderment. The London based vocal songbird effortlessly shared musical streams of lyrics that could not be easily ignored. Husbands sat closer to wives, lovers cuddled, partners linked with their significant other, and singles realized they were on their own. Hilary is a consummate professional and the moment her voice vibrated into the microphone, acoustics of "Rams Head Show Room" allowed the British Sister-Girl to take control, mesmerizing all in earshot.
Tight sounds of "Hil St Soul" maintained a constant relationship with Hilary, creating a September weave of Chocolate Drumbeats, with Carmel-Coated Lines and Spaces of Melodies mixed with guitar, bass and keyboard, captivating the entire audience as she sang triangles of lost relationships, past and present. Hilary, a graduate of London’s Westminster University, educated the audience on a 101 about Love and Relationships.
"Hil St Soul"s set includes musical taste of their new CD "Solidify," including "Its OK " "Baby Come Over" and the emotional ballad "Goodbye". The audience joined in on the haunting, catchy melody (my favorite) a song called "Hey Boy".
Show opener for the set was male vocalist "GOVERNOR" (to be review a later date) host for the affair was "True", Morgan University’s WEAA 88.9 FM, Baltimore MD.
My experience with "Hil St Soul" was a night to remember and my best advice:
When "Hil St Soul" is in or near your town, don’t just meet me there, beat me there.
Uh-Huh Arthur Takeall
Soul-Patrol – Annapolis
LISTEN TO Hil St Soul – SOULidified: Hey Boy, Sweet On You, Its Ok, Goodbye, Better Days, Can We Spend Some Time Together?, We Dont Talk, Too Good To Be True, Smoky Joint, Baby Come Over, One Of A Kind, Time For Love (Hosted by the Funkoverlord)
CONCERT REVIEW – Hil St Soul @ Grape St Pub In Philly
Sure I loved her cover songs, which harkened back to the 1970’s and caused me to place a nostalgic smile on my face whenever I heard them. Of course I loved her original songs just as much; they were fresh/funky and seemed to connect across generations. However the thing I liked most about Erykah Badu was that she had some serious "tude". The live version of "Tyrone" will forever make her the patron saint of all of the "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired" Black women that have ever lived on the face of this earth. The song "Tyrone", clearly inspired by Marlena Shaw’s 1977 masterpiece "Go Away Little Boy" takes things to the next level. "Tyrone" inspired much needed discussion between Black men and women accross the country. So what do Erykah Badu and Marlena Shaw have to do with Hilary Mwelwa/Hil St Soul?
One of the things that has been my observation about female "neo soul" artists is that they all seem to be afraid of taking on the "800 pound gorilla" in the room, named Erykah Badu. In 2006, Black men need to be taken to task. We certainly aren’t doing a very good job of holding up our end of the bargain in the struggle for unity. And in reality we need to pay attention to what Black women are trying to tell us, after all if we can’t trust them, who can we trust?
Hilary Mwelwa doesn’t mind discussing these issues; however different from the caustic style of Erakah Badu, Hillary does it with a British accent and a friendly/helpful manner, that is totally "copasetic and cool". Therefore the words don’t sting as much; however the message is clearly the same. I got that from the album "SOULdified", but it’s reinforced when you see her perform the songs from "SOULdified" LIVE!!!
As I sat in the audience of her show on 8/19/2006 and listened to her perform the songs from her stellar 2006 release called "SOULdified". I couldn’t help but think about Erakah Badu and Marlena Shaw as Hillary not only sang the songs, but also introduced in a very skillful manner, each song and defined to the audience, the impact that each had for her. For example as a prelude to the song "Goodbye" she said: "I’m not hating on men, I just want to relate an experience to you". Well guess what? It was the very same "experience" that Erakah Badu and Marlena Shaw were talking about!!! Or take for example her introduction to the song "Pieces", where she says: "My heart was broken again".
In addition to her well crafted original songs, Hil St Soul also threw in a couple of covers by Aretha Franklin and the Isley Brothers and sucessfully made that important connection between Black music of the past and of the future. (Ahe’s not scared of those artists either…..)
Black women and children need more than anything else, for Black men to be "leaders" in their own homes. Many times the reason why we get disrespected in our own homes is because as Marlena Shaw said: "we act like little boys".
Sometimes it’s not "what you say", it’s "how you say things" that is the difference between being an "effective communicator" and being a "b*tch". Hilary Mwelwa seems to have mastered the art of being able to communicate her displeasure with her man in such a way that he might actually be able to change negative behavior to positive behavior.
I left the concert smiling and hoping that over time more people will get to experience seeing Hilary Mwelwa perform her songs live. They will be treated to an evening of wonderful songs about the complexities of relationships, with strong R&B singing, backed by a nice jazz/funk aggregation. Next time I get a chance to see Hil St Soul, I think that I’ll take my wife with me. And hopefully other folks who go to see Hil St. Soul, they will also go as a couple. It’s a whole lot cheaper and more enjoyable than therapy (or divorce court)…
Check out Hil St Soul on her MySpace page at the following link: http://www.myspace.com/hilstsoul
LISTEN TO Hil St Soul – SOULidified: Hey Boy, Sweet On You, Its Ok, Goodbye, Better Days, Can We Spend Some Time Together?, We Dont Talk, Too Good To Be True, Smoky Joint, Baby Come Over, One Of A Kind, Time For Love (Hosted by the Funkoverlord) Click here to enter your suggestions