Glen Hansard is an artist who is not afraid to lay bare his soul for his audience to see, but few artists as passionate as Hansard can modulate themselves quite so well; his music is deeply and openly emotional without Hansard sounding as if he's melting into a puddle of melodrama. Hansard's emotional high-wire act is once again the centerpiece of his third full-length solo effort, 2015's Didn't He Ramble, and the album's polished yet rustic modern-folkie sensibility is a splendid backdrop for Hansard's compositions, ten songs that find rays of hope in bad situations while also never missing the bits of rust in his own emotional armor. Didn't He Ramble was cut during sessions in Ireland, England, and the United States, but the set has a warm and unified feel, suggesting the glory days of the '70s singer/songwriter era but with a cleaner and less indulgent sensibility. Hansard's singing is at the top of his game on Didn't He Ramble, unaffected but strong as the soulful edges of his instrument wrap themselves around his songs like a more restrained version of Van Morrison (especially on the gospel-tinged "Her Mercy"). Hansard's accompanists make the most of his lean but evocative melodies, and the string arrangements by Rob Moose and Thomas Bartlett are excellent, adding to the air of mystery in these tunes without giving the performances an unwelcome level of gloss. Didn't He Ramble shows that as a performer and a songwriter, Hansard can create powerful and satisfying work that's up to the standard he set with the Frames, and this is a step up from 2012's impressive but uneven Rhythm and Repose.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming