Leah Horne’s Reflections on Swallows’ “Seven Stars”

Profile of vocalist Leah Horne
Musician and writer Leah Horne

Musician, writer and friend of the band Leah Horne, who has collaborated with Swallows’ lead guitarist Brett Hansen in more than one of his former bands (including both Thoughtcloud and The Quills), took some time out of her schedule to reflect on Swallows’ new album “In the Shadow of the Seven Stars.”

Leah was kind enough to share her thoughts with the band:

Overview…

This CD blew me away.

From orchestral to meet-your-maker rock & roll, In the Shadow of the Seven Stars rides the fine, ever-elusive line between complex and bare. But above all, the work and polish powerfully shine through.

More…

A rare autumn day, and I was taking back some time for myself and popped in the disc in my truck. The day was perfect. My mood was perfect. And lo and behold, the music was perfect.

The show opened, and I felt like I had stepped into a timeless universe of a BBC murder mystery. I was transported with riffs and phrases, to a dark street with a sense of urgency and foreboding. The next few tunes were riveting with a crafty balance of subdued and rollicking energy. The delightful fusion of Moody Blues layers and Cohen-esque vocals made me sigh and smile and think. And that’s what art is, right? Something that makes you think. So, just when I thought that the level of craftsmanship couldn’t top the visceral appeal, track…5…happened.

In the Shadow of the Seven Stars album cover
Cover art for Swallows’ In the Shadow of the Seven Stars

Okay. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the fine art of The Blues. The song, “Dead and Gone” ripped that heart opened and filled it up. With passages swimming in and out of dreamy and gritty, I was in heaven! However, there were more courses of the meal to savor…

I don’t know how they accomplished it, but even the quirky “Watertight” (reminiscent of Zappa), still occupies a comfortable place in this compilation without a fight. The musicianship of this ensemble effortlessly makes it work.

Another stand-out for me is “Ten Miles Down.” With tribal, turbulent and sometimes tender personalities, it gives so much and yet willingly takes the listener on a lovely rise-and-fall ride. This track is another gift of great music, but there are so many found in this album.

My friends know how much I love the way a 6/8 rhythm propels the listener. Like leaves drifting effortlessly to the ground, the swing and the sway of 6/8 just gets to me. Truth be told, I have appreciated this band for many years, and I can’t remember a live set without a slice of 6/8. So when the waves of “Gravediggers” broke, I was a very satisfied audience of one.

In closing…

I confess; I need to experience quality vocals for a band to push me over the edge. Yes, I’m kind of a vocal snob. Well, this recording does not leave me wanting more. The vocals are strong and purposeful – a range of emotions delivered in shouts and whispers. In fact, that’s one of the things that stands out the most…an array of voices from EVERY instrument. From the hauntingly noir “Wrecking Ball” to the passionate “Ultraviolet,” the treats abound. In the Shadow of the Seven Stars is chock full of richly stacked, quality identities. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not too lush or overly produced. It’s just that good…and so is Swallows.

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