It was the academy award winning song ‘Falling Slowly’ and all of its wistful, desperate beauty that first introduced many to Glen Hansard, but the Irish artist has always been a prolific songwriter. Whether as frontman of the Frames, with Marketa Irglova in the Swell Season or out on his own, Hansard’s music has always been a vehicle for his heartache. Much has been made of his involvement with Irglova after the filming of Once, and 2012’s solo album Rhythm and Repose reads as an anguishing account of Hansard’s efforts to deal with the fallout of that relationship. But Didn’t He Ramble is slightly different. Hansard lends his story telling talent to not only himself, but also draws on the lives of his friends and family, and his home country of Ireland to produce just the same soul stirring ballads we’ve come to expect. In fact, Hansard’s national pride is more obvious in this album than much of his past material and ‘McCormack’s Wall’ features an exquisite Irish fiddle solo rich in texture and exuberant in sound. ‘Winning Streak’ ventures into optimistic territory, offering up hopes for a friend, and stand out ‘Her Mercy’ also encourages and reassures the romances of others. There’s some great choral harmonies and a brass section built in and instead of creaking with heartache, Hansard’s trademark impassioned voice feels encouraging rather than morose. Hansard’s lyrics often merge into poetry and he never strays too far away from themes of hardship and heartbreak, but there are some new swinging blues influences to enjoy too. By now, Hansard understands what’s draws audiences to him – sincere, emotional songs that both comfort the listener and revel in their own sense of painful nostalgia. Hansard is talented enough that Didn’t He Ramble delivers much of the same, but it sounds genuine and fresh, and there’s a warmth to the record that only a person as magnetic as Hansard could provide.