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  • Jonathan Widran

LORENA LEIGH, Water Theory

There’s something about the uke, isn’t there? Somehow, this tiny stringed instrument we fondly associate with Hawaii found its way to Lorena Leigh at a dark moment when she was living in NYC, going to dance school at Alvin Ailey and healing from injuries. Drawing from her earlier piano training, the Texas born larger than life personality started strumming and has been on a tear as a singer/songwriter ever since.

How all that evolved into an eclectic, freewheeling hard to pin quirky yet heartfelt vibe that one friend affectionately calls “cowgirl mermaid” is anyone’s guess. The good news is that it all comes to glorious submerged yet soaring, deeply provocative and delightfully whimsical fruition on her long-awaited full-length album titled (what else?) Water Theory.

From the insanely cool vocal textures of exotic, majestic, new agey pop flavored title track through the transcendent mystical longing of “Follow Me,” the singer takes us on a multi-faceted journey whose musings and applications she captures eloquently in her own words: “Whether you dance, cry, surf, snowboard, study, make friends, make love, drive, sing, run or roll down the hill to my music – I hope it brings you the most joy…”

That it does, as Lorena, fronting some of the most sparkling, synth washed production you’ve ever heard, juxtaposes steamy and sensual numbers like “Take It Slow” and “For A Long Time” with free flowing whimsy of the tropically-tinged delights “Can’t Undo” and “Tired to the Bone.” Artfully modulating her rangy vocals from light and airy to deeply emotional, she centers everything on her trademark passion for “El Agua,” a tune that embodies all of her insight and playfulness amidst snappy island sensibilities, exotic vocal textures and a steadily rockin’ uke.

As impressive as her songwriting and production are, it’s really her vocals that propel the journey and make it such a blast to take. In no time at all, with a simple turn from verse to chorus, Lorena goes from breezy/flirty/high end flutter to overpowering and heartrending. It’s a blast to listen to whether you’re freely swimming out to sea, hanging onto an emotional buoy or fully submerged and in need of emotional aquatic rescue.

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