This Glen Hansard article was written by Kieran Michael Stowell, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Nick Roseblade
Having spent 25 years stood behind a battered guitar, singing at the top of his voice, Irish songwriter Glen Hansard has become nothing less than a sophisticated music veteran. For his second solo record, Hansard has decided to take a new approach switching polished acoustic ballads of self-pity for tales of empathy, accompanied by no more than Hansard and a handful of talented musicians.
Opening the record is “Grace Beneath The Pines” a melodic folk song with little more than strings lightly followed by Hansard’s soothing words of encouragement; “Whatever life’s in store for me I’ll get through.” And just like the slow rise of dawn, the track subtly builds to a beautiful crescendo of brass and piano.
“Winning Streak” is one of the most explicitly positive songs on the record, offering a friend a simple pat on the back for their successes and spurring them on. Meanwhile, on “Just To Be The One” Hansard takes the sympathetic approach as he gently sings about the lengths he’d go for someone to help a friend in need; “And I will recognize you when you’re lost to yourself, just to be the one you call in.” This is all before the track is drowned in a sweet sound brass riff and subtle flute solos.
For the most part the record praises those who work hard to try and achieve their goals in life.
This is taken quite literally as there is a track named; Paying My Way”. However “My Little Ruin” switches praise for concern by focusing on self destructive individuals who need to be looked in the eye and told: “you’re better than they are.” In a similar vein on “Lowly Deserter” Hansard demands you “take a hard look at yourself” while yelling over the sound of blaring horns and a beat that almost literally hammers the message home.
What brings the album to life is that its lyrics are incredibly relatable, each track represents a scenario that everybody has been in, or knows someone who has been in at some part of their life. For the most part the music follows suit and often builds to a satisfying climax, “Her Mercy” is the perfect example, starting with Glen’s soft voice and guitar and building to become an uplifting gospel track.
On the other hand, though not everything works so well. “Wedding Ring” is a dreary, repetitive track that doesn’t seem to fit with the record’s theme, but instead just sounds pretty, while the surprise fiddle solo at the end of “McCormack’s Wall” is plesant enough, it doesn’t have the any kind of build up so you end up just waiting for it to end.
Removing himself from the picture may have been the best decision of Glen Hansard’s career.
“Didn’t He Ramble” is a warm hearted album that doesn’t pretend to know the secret to happiness, but rather encourages you to find it for yourself.
‘Didn’t He Ramble’ is out now on Plateau Records/Anti Inc