Glen Hansard

Didn't He Ramble

Written by: TL on 29/09/2015 15:24:13

Following the good reception of his debut as a solo artist, the former The Frames and The Swell Season frontman Glen Hansard has returned this year with a second album under his own name, titled "Didn't He Ramble". An album that is primarily different from its predecessor, 2012's "Rhythm And Repose", in the way it channels a more distanced mood, sounding like Hansard - although he still likes to reflect on things - has largely come to terms with life, sounding more at ease and laid-back than he did amidst the emotional desolation that characterised a large part of "Rhythm And Repose".

The album opens with its best song by some margin, the sombre "Grace Beneath The Pines", where Hansard's deft singing is on display on top of a blooming, orchestral ambiance that hints at more drama than the rest of the album will actually offer. Here, however, you feel the atmosphere really tugging at your ears right away, while Hansard sings of being resolved with having chosen an alternative and more difficult life path than the obvious one.

Great stuff, but the album instantly takes a much more relaxing turn, and for its main duration "Didn't He Ramble" explores Hansard's influences both in traditional Irish folk music and in the soul music he himself has professed to having grown up with. "Wedding Ring" is thus a mainly acoustic piece, where Hansard ponders whether a "little band of gold will be strong enough to keep a love from growing cold?", while drawn-out organ notes persist in the background. Particularly this background ambiance gives a sense of depth to a tune that could otherwise come off a bit simple, and similar techniques are deployed later on in a song like "Her Mercy", which grows up to a bit of a gospel climax, and in "Paying My Way", which is a good example of a track that is perhaps a bit too relaxed, and consequentially forgettable, for its own good.

There's a bit more energy then, in tunes like "Winning Streak", "McCormack's Wall" and "Lowly Deserter". "McCormack's Wall" in particular heads home to Ireland, eventually arriving at an old-fashioned fiddle passage that sounds like something Flogging Molly could consider borrowing for one of their tracks. "Lowly Deserter" follows with brazen horn signatures and a beat you can stomp and clap to, much like Elbow's epic "Grounds For Divorce", yet not quite on the same stand-out level.

And that's really the lingering concern with "Didn't He Ramble". It lacks impact tracks, plain and simple. Hansard sings as well as ever, while resorting less to his pained, crooned highs than normally, and the production and mixing of the rich, yet subtle instrumentation is exactly where it should be for an artist of 45 with many records under his belt. Yet overall the album feels a bit derivative. As if Hansard was having a bit too comfortable or uneventful a period in his life to get deeply invested in singing about something, and as if he was more concerned with paying overdue tribute to his influences, than with polishing his own personal edge, which cut deep more regularly on "Rhythm And Repose". In short then, "Didn't He Ramble" is well-crafted, mature music that you can enjoy casually on any occasion, yet it does not figure to leave you with quite as long-lasting Hansard-highlights as previous records the veteran has been involved on.

Download: Grace Beneath The Pines, Wedding Ring, Lowly Deserter
For The Fans Of: Damien Rice, Iron & Wine, Jason Isbell

Release date 18.09.2015
Plateau Records

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