She began her singing life around the Bacca Pipes Folk Club in Keighley.
She was instrumental in launching the Haworth Arts Festival and the Three’s Company folk promotions organisation, and performed as half of a highly-regarded duo with Damien Barber.
The first new signing to Topic Records for a decade, Fay is a worthy recruit to the many torch-bearers of British folk music who have graced the label, including Martin Carthy and June Tabor.
In debut album Looking Glass, Fay delivers a set of mostly traditional songs accompanied by restrained fiddle, viola and concertina.
This allows her haunting vocals, reminiscent of a young Norma Waterson, to work its magic.
She is a singer who can carry not just a tune but a narrative. Kemp Owen for example is a convoluted tale of a transforming curse that twists through 21 verses but Hield makes the story clear.
Meanwhile Little Yellow Roses is narrated from the point of view of a dying Spanish civil war soldier; its imagery is bright and spare and Hield’s version is immensely moving through its understatement.
She formed the female a capella quartet The Witches Of Elswick, who recorded Out Of Bed, (Fellside) and Hell’s Belles (Selwyn Music) to great acclaim.
After a year or two off the folk radar, during which she researched her PhD thesis and discovered motherhood, Fay has returned to public view via occasional performances with partner Jon Boden.
By this time she and Jon had moved to the moorland fringes of Sheffield where they run two clubs gaining national recognition – Royal Traditions (Dungworth) and Bright Phoebus (Sheffield centre).
Fay will be at the Rock@Maltby, Wesley Centre, Blyth Road, Maltby, tonight. Next Friday’s guest is Chris Wood, who is among the finest and most original singer-songwriters to have emerged from the British folk scene in a long time.
The Urban Folk Quartet put down some city roots next week when they take part in the Music in the Round season at Sheffield Theatres Studio.
The band is made up of Frank Moon (oud, guitar), Tom Chapman (percussion), Joe Brougth (fiddle, guitar, mandolin) and Paloma Trigas (fiddle). They all sing.
They appear on Saturday, March 19 and will serve up a heady mix of traditional tunes of England and Spain to a vibrant fusion of rhythms.
Just two years since they came together, the band has already aheadlined major festivals across Europe and won the Spanish International Folk Competition.
Paloma Trigas, who is credited with starting the band, toured for many years with The Chieftains and Carlos Nunez. Joe Broughton played with the Albion Band and Frank Moon was a member of Destroyers.
Added Paloma: “Since our launch in June 2009 we have toured Europe, won the International Folk Award in Spain and been invited to play in Australia, Canada and Sri Lanka.
“We have just finished an 18 date UK tour with sell out gigs and our debut album was released on Fellside recently receiving great reviews and radio plays by Mike Harding on BBC2.”
They will be appearing before 30,000 people at Cropredy this year.
The premise is simple: four highly accomplished musicians, a dozen instruments and four voices coming together to put on a high-energy show that will take your breath away.
Blistering beats, burning fiddle tunes and elements from all four corners of the globe delivered with boundless energy and humour.
The band are equally at home delivering a sombre air or harmonised Appalachian folk song as they are ripping into a rock-infused reel.
THE Urban Folk Quartet will be at Sheffield Theatres Studio on Saturday, March 19.
GUESTING at the Chesterfield Folk Club next Friday will be Ben Sands. Support comes from the Feet First Appalachian Dance Team.
GUITARIST and singer songwriter Steve Tilston is at the Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield on Sunday. Also on the bill will be The Durbervilles.
SHEFFIELD based folk musician Jon Boden is at the Live@215 venue, in Sharrow Vale Road, next Friday.