Glen Hansard – This Wild Willing

On This Wild Willing, Glen Hansard finds a different road out of the country his music usually inhabits; the further he gets from his roots, the closer he is to home

Album Review by Alan O'Hare | 12 Apr 2019
  • Glen Hansard – This Wild Willing
Album title: This Wild Willing
Artist: Glen Hansard
Label: ANTI-
Release date: 12 Apr

'It leaves you if you don't use it' – Glen Hansard is singing about the muse on Good Life of Song, the penultimate track on his fourth solo album This Wild Willing. At over seven minutes long, it's a tune you need to invest in, but the rewards are worth it. The lilting lullaby, which rises from a whisper to a scream, is indicative of the album it lives on – it's familiar, yet new. Put it this way, even if you own all of Hansard's records, you haven't heard this one before.

It's not a total departure, the Irishman remains too enthralled with the classicist singer-songwriter stylings of the likes of Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen to move completely away from the troubadour tracks, but he's certainly found a different road out of the country his music usually inhabits. There's electronic textures, lush orchestration from traditional Iranian musicians and the Irish ways and laws of fiddles and flutes we've come to expect on a Glen Hansard record.

Fools Game is another tune that starts slowly, before falling into a distorted and dystopian choral mass, and it's a song that sets the tone early on for This Wild Willing: remaining still while all around lose their minds. Inspired by recent events in Paris, Race to the Bottom is the stand-out track – a circling acoustic guitar figure, matched by a beefy bassline, cognitive drums and stabs of brass, all providing perpetual motion to a foreboding tale that recalls fellow Irish frontrunners Villagers at their best.

The familiar folk shuffles of songs such as Brother's Keeper and Threading Water give the album its centre, but it's tracks like Weight of the World (the record's other seven-minute-plus-epic) that offer clues to the situations Hansard is looking for solutions to on This Wild Willing. 'You're the one I'll come back to find', he sings on gorgeous album closer Leave a Light. The further away Hansard gets from his roots, the closer he is to home.

Listen to: Good Life of Song, Fools Game, Weight of the World