Fay Hield is a singer who seems to have been born knowing how to carry a tune but with the rarer gift of knowing how to go straight to the heart of a song. Her debut solo album ‘Looking Glass‘, was released in September 2010 by prestigious folk label, Topic Records and quickly earned Fay many accolades as well as a nomination for the Horizon Award at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Fay’s second album, Orfeo, was released in May 2012, again on Topic Records and has gained rave reviews in the press and plenty of airplay across the UK and beyond.
Orfeo features 11 superbly arranged traditional songs, including lead track, ‘Sir Orfeo’, based on a 13th Century retelling of the epic supernatural Greek fable, Orpheus and Eurydice. Fay’s gift for unearthing rare and interesting material is well represented throughout, including the obscure but beguiling nursery rhyme
‘Naughty Baby’ and the feisty Lancashire mill-girl tour-de-force ‘The Old ‘Arris Mill’. An Anne Briggs inspired version of ‘The Cuckoo’ is included. In folklore, the bird’s call is often used as a signal heralding spring and the number of times it is heard during the season is said to translate into the number of years until a death or a marriage. The delightfully named ‘Tarry Trousers’, is a song Fay discovered through singer, Frankie Armstrong, but which was also well known by Dickens (and quoted in his novel, Dombey and Son). ‘Wicked Serpent’ meanwhile, originates from the US and is based on an incident relating to the unfortunate Timothy Myrick of Springfield Mountain when he died after having been bitten by a rattlesnake one August.
The focus of the first album was Fay’s rich and unadorned voice. While Orfeo finds her once again exploring lesser known traditional songs, this time, the new recordings also see Fay confidently fronting a stellar supporting cast; The Hurricane Party. Consisting of some of the finest folk musicians working today The Hurricane Party features ; Andy Cutting (button accordions, melodeon), Rob Harbron (English Concertina, fiddle, vocals), Sam Sweeney (fiddle, viola, cello, nyckelharpa, vocals) and Jon Boden (fiddle, guitar, percussion, double bass, mandolin, additional banjo and vocals) plus special guest Martin Simpson (banjo, guitar).
Alongside her burgeoning performing career, Fay is also an academic, lecturing in Ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield. Her PhD thesis ‘English Folk Singing and the Construction of Community’ was completed in 2010 and she is currently consultant for the ‘Music Communities’ research project at the University of Manchester. Fay also guest lectures at other educational establishments, including the Leeds College of Music. Fay and her partner, Bellowhead front man Jon Boden, also find time to run two folk clubs – Royal Traditions (in their local village of Dungworth) and Bright Phoebus (Sheffield).
Orfeo is an album of songs to which Fay feels an especially strong connection. Her choice of material and the delivery of it, reflect a rare sensitivity and appreciation of the tradition whilst remaining naturalistic and highly distinctive. Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party will appear at a range of key festivals throughout the summer before undertaking a major UK tour in the autumn performing at venues such as Cecil Sharp House in London, The Sage Gateshead, The Junction in Cambridge and St David’s Hall in Cardiff.
Artist’s website: www.fayhield.com