Release Date: Sep 18, 2015
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Indie Rock
Glen Hansard accomplished a rare feat back in 2007, winning a "Best Original Song" Oscar, with Czech singer Markéta Irglová, for an indie-folk tune. With apologies to Randy Newman and that year's cast of animated characters, "Falling Slowly" was a song for the all grown-up NPR/CBC Radio 2 crowd. As one half of folk-rock duo the Swell Season, long-time frontman for Dublin rock band the Frames and sometimes actor, the Irish singer-songwriter has had a diverse 25-year career.
Blockbusting Irish rover finds his solo voice. You can’t always get a point across with overblown posturing, or by bellowing bug-eyed through a mic. Anyone who’s seen the blockbusting Commitments- and Once-star Glen Hansard live knows this, as the modern-day Irish troubadour is wont to abandon amplification entirely and turn up the emotion acoustically or a cappella, even in venues such as The Barbican.
Glen Hansard is an artist who is not afraid to lay bare his soul for his audience to see, but few artists as passionate as Hansard can modulate themselves quite so well; his music is deeply and openly emotional without Hansard sounding as if he's melting into a puddle of melodrama. Hansard's emotional high-wire act is once again the centerpiece of his third full-length solo effort, 2015's Didn't He Ramble, and the album's polished yet rustic modern-folkie sensibility is a splendid backdrop for Hansard's compositions, ten songs that find rays of hope in bad situations while also never missing the bits of rust in his own emotional armor. Didn't He Ramble was cut during sessions in Ireland, England, and the United States, but the set has a warm and unified feel, suggesting the glory days of the '70s singer/songwriter era but with a cleaner and less indulgent sensibility.
The line between insufferably precious and unaffectedly tender can be thin indeed. It’s one that Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard hasn’t always navigated effectively. For every touching, introspective moment in his catalog– either fronting long time rockers The Frames, working with ex-flame Marketa Irglova in the Swell Season or on his previous solo release– there seems to be another where Hansard’s plentiful, often downbeat, brooding and pseudo-poetic lyrics feel forced and self-servingly pitiful.
The cover of Glen Hansard's Didn't He Ramble is deceiving: a wintry window defaced by scratches that serves as a barrier between the listener and songwriter. Anyone familiar with The Frames and Swell Season singer knows his songs offer a warm invitation into his world. Ramble, perhaps more than any Hansard release, feels intimate and confessional, marked by encounters with grace and mercy and wrapped in lessons of loss and endurance.
Glen Hansard is a troubadour of the breakup, but his second solo effort, Didn’t He Ramble, is anything but sad. The Irish folk veteran doesn’t shy from heartache, he sings about it with excruciating grace. In 2007, he starred in Once alongside Marketa Irglova, a film about two musicians falling in love, an onscreen romance that won the two an Oscar and birthed a love beyond the big screen.
Glen Hansard has built a career, now 25 years strong, on struggle. His impassioned songs mostly veer between the exhausting struggle to make it professionally (“Pavement Tune”) and the numbing struggle to keep the affections of a romantic partner (“What Happens When the Heart Just Stops”). The musicians surrounding him doesn’t matter. Pick up any Frames or Swell Season record, or his first solo release, 2012’s Rhythm and Repose, to find him chipping away at those two pillars.
Glen Hansard has been a steadily prolific singer-songwriter for 25 years, first with the Dublin indie-rock act the Frames and later as half of Oscar-winning folk duo the Swell Season. On his second solo effort, Hansard explores fresh sounds, from plain-spoken blues ("Wedding Ring") to traditional-minded Irish ballads ("McCormack's Wall"). The highlight: "Her Mercy," a soul showstopper that starts small and builds toward a parade of horns and cathartic pleading.