Glen HansardGlen Hansard
Album: Didn't He Ramble
Label: Anti
Tracks: 10

"Didn't He Ramble" is the sophomore solo release from Irish singer songwriter and actor Glen Hansard. It's been twenty five years coming. It's come following roles in films "The Commitments" and "Once" in which the song "Falling Slowly" won an Oscar. Factor in fronting the Irish rockers Frames, add appearing on stage with the likes of Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen and you have some idea of the pedigree of the Man.

"Didn't He Ramble" opens hymnally with "Grace Beneath The Pines" and you initially think of the English Folk of Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, before the production of Thomas Barlett (The National, Sufjan Stevens) swells the sound.

"Wedding Ring" points to the output of Swell Season (Hansard's duo alongside Marketa Irglova), it's a gentle blues, the music sloshes from side to side like pouring water back and fourth in a jug while the lyrics reflect doubt and insecurities we all feel "Will you be strong enough to keep her, keep her love from going cold" ?

"Winning Streak" manages to convey the wishes of hope and good will in a heartfelt way, may your luck last and may we all share your fortune. We all wish for the best don't we. An uplifting piano and mandolin driven track.

"Her Mercy" adds horns and moves into the soulful early Van Morrison territory, it would have seamlessly fitted into the Commitments soundtrack.

Roots are extended further back with the intimate "McCormack's Wall" a late night ballad which ends with an Irish fiddle tune.

It's easy to come to the conclusion that this is a career spanning re-visitation and reinvention.

A feeling that build with "Lowly Deserter" which rocks like the best of the Frames a big bold sounds cape with brass and strings.

"Paying My Way" slows the pace to a Sunday Morning Coming Down and examines the subject of work as a necessity to get to the weekend and your loved ones, just scrimping by, the whistling end to the song suggests it's all worth it.

"My Little Ruin" a calling song, relationships that need support, that need a positive push, that need others to believe in you even when you don't yourself.

Depth and introspection as Hansard explains, "I feel I've really dug deep for these songs, and I've been chasing specific ideas asking myself 'what is it I'm trying to say with this line or idea?' One would hope that through all of this that you find your voice. And, amazingly, you might find it in the smallest gesture of a song."

And in doing that "Didn't He Ramble" is an album of diverse styles and feelings, one such that we'll all pick our favourite tracks, and we will all disagree. There are no weak songs here just different favourites.

My favourite track, the closing "Stay The Road", a dictionary definition of devotion - "I've been mining down a dark hoIe, I've been mining in the rock, for a heart of gold that can't be bought or sold, she's got there inside of her. I've been working for your wonder I've been mining hard and long. I will not fold, I'm going to find that gold, my work as just begun. C'mon Pilgrim won't you stay the road…..And when you doubting I'll hope you'll trust in me….. Tired eyes look up and see"

If variety is indeed the spice of life , then music is alive and well in the hands of Glen Hansard.

Ian Cripps