As a band frontman and as a solo artist, Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard has repeatedly displayed his admirable gift for creating stormy songs that meet heartbreak and struggle head-on. And wow, does he ever have one soulful wail. On this, his second solo album, Didn’t He Ramble, Hansard’s lyrics explore similar themes of pushing through hardship—this time through the language of pilgrimage.
In an interview with CBC, Hansard says that a “perfect song is in the shape of a prayer.” This statement will likely resonate with listeners who have their own experiences of praying impassioned pleas and expressions of gratitude. Although the songs on this album are not religious in the sense that they are about God, the lyrics do include mentions of grace, mercy, love, and beauty. Hansard uses spiritually heavy words and phrases in ways that allow them to transcend easy platitudes.The pleasant, confident track “Winning Streak,” for example, has the feeling of a traditional Irish blessing: “And may the sign/of the Southern Cross/be some comfort to you when you’re lost./And may the devil’s evil eye/pass you by.”
Throughout Didn’t He Ramble, Hansard acknowledges life’s wearying moments while still giving himself—and his listeners—permission to wish for the best in the midst of difficulty. There’s a thematically fitting sense, too, of Hansard paying instrumental tribute to traditional Celtic folk ballads, as several songs contain lovely flourishes of fiddle playing or powerful blasts of horns. It may not be a collection of “perfect songs”—but it is a mature, sincere, and memorable addition to his catalog, and to the genre of modern folk music as a whole. (Banner review)