Review of Richard Leschen’s “Black Horses”

 

Black Horses, Richard Leschen’s second album, is a distinct departure from the gentle lyricism of his debut album, Heavy Waters.  Infused with a heavy dose of social conscience, his songs are a collection of largely dark stories of outcasts, rebels and betrayal, set in both the modern day and historical.  If it wasn’t for the fine quality of the recording and the delicate stringwork one could imagine his songs being played round a campfire, finding favour with rough cowboy-types.  The cowboy character indeed features strongly in his songs – in Skies of Gallatin a businessman“kicks off his velvet slippers” and becomes a roving cowboy.  Many of Leschen’s songs are timeless in this way – they capture the age old sentiments of an individual’s longing for freedom and space.

 

Leschen is an immigrant from the US of A and a deep vein of Americana runs through his songs, even the one about Kalgoorlie Mine in Australia.  However nostalgic his songs may seem, he never quite lets the sugar coating set. His songs touch on the dark side of human nature, from betrayal in Poppies and Thieves to the aftermath of war in Black Horses. But there is always an undercurrent of hope – even the dying man in my personal favourite, Bed Monkey, focuses on his lifelong dream to “head for the ocean and don’t be afraid.”  Along the way Leschen reminds us of the poetry of life – throwing in references to Kafka and Greek Mythology as well as numerous striking images of his own.

 

The overall feel of the album is of songs of memory with an undercurrent of loss.  But in Leschen’s world, dreams do, in the end, come true: people do head out of their mediocre lives and into the sunset of their dreams.

 

- Renee Liang, poet and author of Chinglish