Album Review: Glen Hansard - Rhythm And Repose

17 July 2012 | 5:10 pm | Chris Hayden

He would’ve been a fucking impressive busker.

So prolific in his work with massively influential Irish group The Frames, The Swell Season and a multitude of other projects (he even wrote a track for The Hunger Games' soundtrack), it's hard to believe that this is actually Glen Hansard's first solo album. How it could have possibly taken so long is a total mystery, especially when you consider the fact that Hansard got his start as a lone busker in Dublin (most recently chronicled in the sleeper hit film Once).

Truth be told, most of his back catalogue actually sounds like the work of a solo artist anyway, but no matter. Rhythm And Repose boasts a list of collaborators that reads like a who's who of Planet Earth's session musicians. Members of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan's bands both pop up, along with Martha Wainwright's bass player, Bon Iver's string arranger, half of Bruce Springsteen's horn section and a guest vocal from John Lennon himself (okay, not the last one). Either way, Hansard is taking no risks with his cattle. Honestly though, the quality of his songwriting is so uniformly excellent here that you could probably have Richmond's dodgiest practise room exponents plodding along on these tracks and they'd still sound great.

Tugging the heartstrings at every turn, Hansard leads his famous tenor through 11 of the more earnest tracks you'll hear this year. His skill, though, has always been his capacity to turn syrup into gold and he achieves this trick on several occasions throughout Rhythm And Repose. It would be arm hairs of stone that wouldn't prick up as the strings wind up and Hansard lets his emotions get the better of him on centrepiece Bird Of Sorrow. He would've been a fucking impressive busker.