ALBUM REVIEW: Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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three half



Released: 18.9.15

More information on Glen Hansard’s official website


Glen Hansard has come a long way since starring as guitar-playing busker Outspan in the classic Irish comedy The Commitments.  Having released numerous albums with his rock band, The Frames, and finding critical and commercial success with The Swell Season and the movie Once – in which he starred and scored the soundtrack for – Hansard released his first solo record Rhythm and Repose in 2012. Although a strong record, it tended to suffer from over production, much in the way that Didn’t He Ramble does.  For those who liked his work with Marketa Irglova, his second solo record can often feel frustrating.  Hansard possesses a voice like few others, a guttural scream that stops just the right side of becoming a shout, that shakes you to the very core and plucks at the heartstrings until you feel that they might just snap.  But this is a much more refrained affair.

From the atmospheric beauty of the opener Grace Beneath The Pines to the MOR Wedding Ring, that veers dangerously into Neil Diamond territory.  That’s not such a bad thing, it’s just not what we’d hope and expect from such an incredible singer-songwriter.  Winning Streak and Her Mercy continue in much the same vein until McCormack’s Wall splits the record in half with its Irish jig finale.  It really is a case of an album of two halves as Lowly Deserter becomes the first track to pick up the pace and provide a bit of zest.  Paying My Way is Hansard at his very best, a testament to a hard day’s work, whilst recognising the pitfalls of working for the man; “No joy in the work unless you were born to do what they say.”  Back on form, My Little Ruin follows and is the best track on offer. Finding beauty in the dirt, love in a hopeless place, “I’m not gonna stand aside and watch them tear you up, cos you’re better than they are,” is the kinda lyric we crave from Hansard and the accompanying finger picking guitar, his trademark.  But where is that scream?  That howl of pain and anguish?  Maybe a clue lies in another line; “The melody I made is now a worn out sing along…”  Just To Be The One and Stay The Road close the record in much the same rhythm.  Good songs, but leaving us with the feeling and knowledge, that this is a singer songwriter who is capable of so much more.  Yes, it’s good.  But a Glen Hansard record should be great.  And so Didn’t He Ramble has the feel of something missing.  Didn’t he just.

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