One of the most stirring female voices in contemporary British folk music belongs to Hilary James. A former member of western swing band, Slim Panatella And The Mellow Virginians and children's music duo, Musical Mystery Tour, James has been embraced by the upper echelon of England's folk musicians. Her third solo album, Bluesy, released in 1999, featured instrumental support from drummer Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson Band and Jethro Tull), guitarist/vocalist Ian Campbell (The Ian Campbell Folk Group) and her long-time collaborator Simon Mayor on fiddle, mandolin and guitar. According to Rock'N'Reel, "As a singer of folksongs, Hilary James has no peers". While the majority of her repertoire is comprised of traditional Irish and Scottish fiddle tunes and ballads, James is equally impressive singing musical theater and pop tunes by Irving Berlin and George Gershwin and classical pieces by Vivaldi and Handel. James first attracted attention during the four years that she studied Fine Art at Reading University. In addition to running the university folk club, she performed at the Edinburgh Festival with the school's drama society. Training to be a teacher, following her graduation, James became concerned with the lack of quality children's music in England. Together with Mayor, she formed Musical Magical Tour to perform for youngsters in theaters, arts centers and schools. The duo released the first of five albums, Gobble! Gobble! Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!, in 1985. They remained together through 1991. James' debut album for adults, Burning Sun, released in 1983, became a top ten hit on BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2. While Folk Roots called the album, "beautifully arranged, peformed and recorded", Dirty Linen praised James for her "warm and sweet dulcet tones". James' second adult album, Love, Lust & Loss, focused on traditional ballads from England, Ireland and Scotland with James accompanied by pianist Beryl Marriott.
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