Glen Hansard came into prominence in 2006 with the release of his Oscar-winning film Once, now a Broadway musical. While Once made him famous, he has been a singer-songwriter since he dropped out of school at the age of 13 and began busking around the streets of Dublin, Ireland. He formed the band The Frames in 1990 and the band The Swell Season in 2006. In 2012, Hansard released his first solo album Rhythm and Repose. Hansard knows how to write amazing songs and perform with passion, and his recent solo work reflects his skills. Hansard’s latest work, the solo EP Drive All Night, lives up to his reputation as an awe-inspiring singer and insightful storyteller. All profits from the digital downloads of the EP will go to Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit that provides music education in public schools.
Drive All Night opens with a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song by the same name. The track includes vocals by Eddie Vedder, Joe Henry and Jack Clemons. “Drive All Night” is clearly the focus of the short EP, given it’s nearly 9-minute running time and impressive guest vocalists. Hansard sings with an emotive quality similar to Springsteen, with Vedder and Henry’s vocal harmonies weaving in and out. The saxophone backing is perfectly accompanied by the beautiful acoustic guitar throughout the song. Jack Clemons, nephew to the E Street Band’s late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, delivers a powerful saxophone solo towards the end of the song. Hansard breathes new life into “Drive All Night” by modernizing the instrumentation and production – but clearly intends to respect the original.
“Pennies in the Fountain” is probably the low point of the EP, though the bar is very high. The mood of the somber breakup song brings down the album, but Hansard’s vocals are beautiful throughout the track. “Renata” adds energy to the EP through the driving snare beat and Hansard’s strong, almost-breaking vocals. Female vocalist, long-time collaborator and Once costar Marketa Irglova beautifully accompanies Hansard throughout the track. The EP ends with “Step Out of the Shadows,” an a capella, folk song that is just slightly underwhelming as a closer.
Drive All Night highlights Hansard’s time-tested skills: his gift for songwriting, soaring vocals, and proclivity for covers. While it is not his strongest work, it is sure to please loyal Hansard fans and definitely serves as a solid follow-up to his first solo album.
-Margaux Nielsen co-hosts The Love Me Duo, every Sunday night (Monday morning) at 1am