Hil St. Soul
Hil St. Soul is the moniker used by singer Hilary Mwelwa and songwriter/producer Victor Redwood Sawyer. The duo has received critical raves on both sides of the Atlantic with their amalgamation of jazz and neo-soul fronted by Mwelwa's engaging voice.
Mwelwa was born in Lusaka, Zambia, Hilary Mwelwa, but relocated with her family to London at age five. Her home was filled with a varied mix of music, ranging from traditional Zambian music to the American R&B of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. While she loved music, Mwelwa attended London's Westminster University and earned a degree in biological sciences. However a demo she cut during a break in school became the source of a new career choice for her. It led to the recording, with Sawyer, of 2000's Soul Organic. The disc took Europe by storm and crossed the Atlantic on the strength of a smooth cover of Franklin's "Until You Come Back to Me."
Soul Organic wound up being named to a number of critics' top ten lists for the year and catapulted Hil St. Soul to the category of young acts to watch. It showed an artist with an engaging voice and developing songwriting skills, clearly immersed in the NeoSoul movement but also with a fine sense of the groove of classic soul and even smooth jazz.
Hil St. Soul signed with Shanachie Records for their sophomore disc, Copasetic and Cool. It again received strong reviews and became the group's first album to hit the US R&B charts. Like its predecessor, it showed a relatively laid back style and solid songwriting. Ironically, the cut that received the most airplay was a Whitney Houston-like cover of the Isleys' "For the Love of You."
In 2006, Hil St. Soul readied the release of SOULidified, again on Shanachie, the duo's first album of all original material. They followed two years later with Black Rose, which again strengthened their base of fans. In 2009, the compilation Release was issued internationally.
By Chris Rizik