Age just makes Glen Hansard’s artistic light burn brighter.
Irish rock band The Frames have released seven studio albums, and with ‘All That Was East Is West Of Me Now’ their frontman, Glen Hansard notches up his fifth solo album, which comes four years after the release of his last one. The Frames haven’t released an album since 2015 and therefore his solo career is currently the outlet for new Glen Hansard material. During these four years, Glen Hansard collaborated with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Cat Power, as well as touring with the Frames and with Czech singer-songwriter, Markéta Irglová, as The Swell Season. The songs on ‘All That Was East Is West Of Me Now’ were knocked into shape in Glen Hansard’s local pub in an attempt to get input from an audience before he started recording the songs with Irish musician, producer and long-term collaborator, Dave Odlum. The rather convoluted title is a reference to the fact that Hansard has more years behind him than he has in front of him, a sentiment that informs the whole record.
Opening track ‘The Feast Of St. John’ has been said to have echoes of Neil Young’s ‘On The Beach’, and Hansard is joined by Bad Seed Warren Ellis on violin. Dreams can inspire songs and that is the case with the ‘Down On Our Knees’ which is bass and drum-heavy and reminds everyone that they will be down on their knees at some point. The third track oozes positivity as Hansard proclaims ‘There Is No Mountain’ that can’t be climbed. Determination gives way to contentment on ‘Sure As The Rain’ as Hansard sings a love song to his wife and young song, with the help of Via Mardot’s theremin. There is more of an orchestral feel to ‘Between Us There Is Music’ which takes a mature look at a relationship, and Hansard’s softer vocals are backed by layered female vocals. The mood is continued on ‘Ghost’ about moving on from a past action within a relationship. There is a sense of defiance to the upbeat ‘Bearing Witness’ which ups the rock music quotient on a tune about making the best of what life gives you. You can feel Glen Hansard’s emotion as he reflects on how short the human lifespan is given the scale of the challenges faced by the world on ‘Short Life’. The album closes with a reprise that brings a sense of cohesion to what has gone before.
Glen Hansard is a well-known admirer of fellow Irishman Van Morrison, and on ‘All That Was East Is West Of Me Now’ he shows that he himself is able to mature while still producing work that reflects the world of today while adding to the Irish musical tradition. He and producer Dave Odlum have upped the rock sound which is an echo of Hansard’s work with the Frames and reflects his extracurricular activities with Eddie Vedder and Cat Power. He brings his literary skills to bear on the experiences of someone who is now in their sixth decade, and his vocals are as expressive as ever. This is a record that will delight his fans wherever they are in the world, and it confirms that maturity is simply grist to his artistic mill.