April 12, 2004 12:00 PM


Hil St. Soul

After strong R&B releases by Floetry, Craig David and Ms. Dynamite, the British soul invasion continues with this cool London duo. Hil St. Soul (pronounced Hill Street Soul) consists of Zambian-born vocalist Hilary Mwelwa and writer-producer Victor Redwood-Sawyer, who smoothly meld an underground U.K. aesthetic with a traditional American black music sensibility. Songs such as the hip-hop-inflected title tune (featuring a guest rap by Britain’s Roots Manuva) and the finger-snapping “Blue Tears” have a jazzy, laid-back vibe that recalls earlier Brit acts Soul II Soul and Brand New Heavies. 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. “I may not ever own those material things/ But I’ll be free as long as I’ve got me,” she sings in lines from the India.Arie school of self-empowerment. But the American urban slang on the funky groover “All That (+ A Bag O’ Chips)” feels a bit dated. Sorry, guys, but that phrase went out last millennium.

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