One expects the artists on Zac Brown's Southern Ground Artists label to be different, if nothing else. Sonia Leigh doesn't disappoint. Her style is a mix of country, soul reggae and blues, and the songs on '1978 December' jump seamlessly from one genre to the next. Much like her boss, the singer hasn't made a country album, but an album that country fans will like. Labels be damned!

Consistency is somewhat of a problem on Leigh's new album. At her best she's a great storyteller, and songs like 'Ain't Dead Yet' and the title track jump from the speakers with sharp lyrics and vivid imagery. 'I Just Might' isn't as memorable of a story, but it's the Georgia born singer's best vocal effort. Play the song for someone unfamiliar with Leigh's work and watch them guess if it's the late Amy Winehouse singing.

The swinging, drink-my-sorrows-away 'Bar' and 'Virginia' fall flat between these highlights. Leigh might have been aiming for carefree on the first, but she wound up with lazy. The second is one of a handful that just sort of play through without much notice. 'If You Won't Tell' is another, although the electric guitar is a nice change of pace. Her reggae stylings on 'Roaming' may need some more practice -- and honestly, the same can be said for Brown, who guest sings on the track.

'1978 December' gets an extra half-star for taking risks, even though not all pay off for the songwriter-singer. There isn't much for mainstream radio stations to embrace, but Leigh provides enough emotion to make the album worth the download.

3 Stars

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