Cover of Glen Hansard's new album 'Rhythm and Repose'
Tony Award winner. Head of one of the most influential Irish bands of the last 20 years. Movie star. Recent duet partner of Bono.
All of these descriptives fit Glen Hansard well, but not quite. If you really want a word to describe him, try this one:
Busker (n): a person who entertains in a public place for donations.
The plot line of the Oscar-winning Once and the Tony Award-winning musical version of the film that followed were based on the Irish busker culture that birthed the Frames lead singer on a Dublin sidewalk. On his new album, Rhythm and Repose, he doesn’t stray far from the simple acoustic storytelling of his street performing roots.
Even the promotional tour he’s been doing in places like Rolling Stone and NPR have the singer armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a microphone, selling his songs in video clips.
The scratching violin strings that open “You Will Become” sound like seagulls quarreling above Hansard’s head as he plucks a cheap sounding guitar and sings, “In time this won’t even matter/this chapter will be long underground/we’ll talk about everything until its easier.”
“Maybe Not Tonight” has a loopy, breezy acoustic weave that puts Hansard somewhere between the peaceful, easy feeling of the Eagles and the Celtic cooing of Van Morrison: “This might be it for me and you/maybe we can draw that line/maybe another time/I want to do what’s right/but maybe not tonight.”
You would think a string of successes in the areas of film, stage, and soundtracks (Hansard’s jittery “Take the Heartland” is on the blockbuster soundtrack of The Hunger Games) would lighten the guy up a bit, but he makes hurting sound so good that I guess it’s hard to take joy in anything when it’s so fruitful to deny yourself of happiness.
Created over the last year and a half while living in New York City, the album was recorded by Patrick Dillett (David Byrne, Arto Lindsay, Laurie Anderson) and produced by Thomas Bartlett (Doveman, the National, Antony and the Johnsons) and is Hansard’s first release since the Swell Season’s Strict Joy (2009).
One of the standout tracks is “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting,” a toasty and brilliant track with a soulful electric organ and a shuffling beat that finds the singer ready to find love sooner rather than later. The playful flamenco strumming and the “la, la, la’s” that he gets lost in throughout the track are a welcome shot of optimism amidst the downbeat downer vibe of Rhythm and Repose.
In previous interviews, Hansard has described listening to “a holy trinity” of artists in his house -- Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan with “Bob sitting in the center.”
With his first proper solo album, Hansard has approached their greatness and has ushered in the fertile crop of singer/songwriters that make Dublin one of the greatest musical cities once again. Maybe that will cheer this chap up a bit. Then again, maybe not.
Hansard will play (le) Poisson Rouge on June 28 and the Beacon Theatre on June 29 in New York before an exhaustive tour of Europe this summer. For more information, log onto www.glenhansardmusic.com.
Glen Hansard's video for 'Love Don't Leave Me Waiting':