Sonia Leigh’s career is something to be marvelled at. Her versatility as a songwriter is unrivalled and the hard work she puts in as an independent artist is reflected in the miles she travels and the amount of shows she does year in year out. But more than all of this Sonia is the kind of person who gets along with everybody, she can often be found at the end of a show sharing a smile and a pint with her fans and she’s always willing to help aspiring musicians as her work with Supajam shows. With this attitude it’s no surprise that Sonia Leigh is bringing out a record called Sonia Leigh and Friends. In this day and age where many musicians treat the industry as though it was one big x-factor style competition it is refreshing to hear such an album where musicians of such high calibre from different genres come together in one of the most prestigious studios in the World (Abbey Road) and create something truly special.
There is an eclectic collection of songs on this record, a good representation of Sonia’s career and a typical live show. The album is book-ended by instrumentals Claire De Lune Part 1 to open and part 2 to close, played on the piano by Jessie Maryon Davies. The second track Alabama Bound became a favourite amongst fans whilst she was touring with Broken Witt Rebels last year and this version recorded at Abbey Road studios really captures the live energy of that song. Sonia’s unique and gritty vocals shine through on old favourites My Name Is Money and Bar. Much like the live shows there is a feel of freedom for Sonia and the musicians to bounce off each other. Jack is Back is very different to the version she released on her last record Mad Hatter, it begins a lot slower, more stripped back which gives more emphasis to the latter half of the song which has more of a Rock feel to it, the emotion almost switches from a sombre beginning to a feisty, angrier end.
One of my favourite parts of Sonia’s live shows is when she surprises new fans - particularly at festivals, by turning round and playing a number 1 hit she co-wrote with the Zac Brown Band. So I was delighted to see her own version of this song on this record which she performs with Katy Hurt and The Bass Brothers. It is a beautiful stripped back rendition. We reach a pinnacle on Dead Man’s Sunrise where the level of musicianship is heard loud and clear as electric guitarists Gab Zsapka and Linda Burrato have a riff-off towards the end of the song. This record is amazing in the way that it has really captured the energy and vibe of a Sonia Leigh show. Walking in the Moonlight follows a favourite of mine off Mad Hatter.
Then we hear a couple of new songs from Sonia, the first one being Ladder to the Moon which is actually my favourite on the record, you hear the emotion and assertiveness in Sonia’s vocals.
On Rob the Man Sonia collaborates with Ollie Beach and Nadine Daniels, the volume ramps up and when all three sing the oohs at the end of the song there is something haunting about it. They are three very different voices but they work well together. Then another energetic number ensues as we hear another favourite off Mad Hatter, Sky Submarine. The penultimate is a well known Tom Waits song, Ol’ 55 and this version is phenomenal, all the guests coming together and making those harmonies, the song just soars in that chorus and that fiddle is fantastic.
This record in some ways is an odd mix but something we’ve come to expect from Sonia, a songwriter and performer who doesn’t like to put themselves in a box. There’s Country, there’s Pop, there’s Rock and Roll, it feels like an essential for any fans collection but a great introduction to who Sonia Leigh is for anyone not familiar with her music.