Album Review: Sonia Leigh – Mad Hatter

Sonia Leigh's album cover

So far, so singer-songwriter until the music zings and shudders and Leigh burst in with a vocoder. It’s a shot in the arm. A keen description of aimlessness following a breakup follows: “ain’t in a rush now all I got is time…I earn it and I spend it like it’s money ever since you said goodbye.” With an EDM treatment, a lyric that could have sounded cliche for a bro country star becomes meaningful: “gonna drink about a long-lost friend.”

The electronica vocal and backing approach remains, along with another alcohol reference. Mainlining tequila is described as having “a wicked worm in my belly.”

A stark expression of loneliness follows: “she didn’t wish me a happy birthday this year/guess that says it all/but I swear there was a time she really loved me.” The poignancy continues through Alice in Wonderland allusions: “it was like she was never here and it never happened…Alice, if you ever miss my love, you can still have it.”

Waste The Day smashes in as an oriental style synth pulses against a snap track. The next, Walking in the Moonlight has a dream-like quality. Leigh explained “I often climb up onto my roof in Nashville and have a drink, stare up, and have a think. It’s my happy place…I really wanted the music to sound like stars dazzling. I wanted one to feel they were walking down a beach on a summer night somewhere like Thailand…I wanted to paint that picture to the listener and capture you in a moment there with the one you want.”

From the night time to the heat of the day: discordant repetition of ‘Diamond in the Desert‘ clues you in to a fever dream played out under the searing sun.

Acid Rain isn’t the only caustic comparison. Try “thirsty like a vampire/hollow eyes” – the other side of drug addiction and dissolution.

Shelter‘s a pure love song, leaving us feeling relieved for Leigh after all the heartbreak: “in your arms I come alive/I finally found heaven by your side.” This sweet song was co-written with Frank Romano who’s also worked with Sia, Ariana Grande and Backstreet Boys.

We’re back to post-breakup and the vocoder for N.Y.C. Then desert imagery returns, but this time refreshment is close: “she left me dry as a desert/Jack is back.” The Jack Daniels denouement is delivered in a matter of a fact way, followed by a Joker style distorted version. We’re left in no doubt that sobriety is over: “I’m gonna raise a new hell with a long lost friend.”

In Dead Man’s Sunrise the narrator is ready for the end; almost surprised it hasn’t happened yet after a hard-lived life.

Leigh comes out fighting, rapping “this music game is tricky/we all know how this business can get sticky/anyone with a drink can take a swig.” This one was a collab with Romano and other members of Drake’s team, Jazzy Feezy and Scena. There’s little argument that the repeated phrase “keep your mind on the prize” is as much an affirmation for Leigh as for us.

Having written and co-produced every song on this eclectic album in the wake of appearing on the CMT TV show Nashville and writing for other artists including Zac Brown Band and Big and Rich, we’re excited to see where Leigh’s career goes next.