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Hansard starts off gently, coaxing the recluse away from a poisonous crowd via a soft guitar pitter-pattering like raindrops against a window.The backing band swells to match Hansard’s growing frustration at his friend’s careless misuse of talent before expanding and extending an olive branch.Written for the late brother of this sophomore solo outing’s co-producer, Thomas Bartlett, the tune manages to convey good will, hope, and pleading, while also coping with the inevitable.This album keenly understands a favorite expression of “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert’s mother: “What’s the use of being Irish if you don’t know your life is going to break your heart.” Fittingly, Hansard, a born and bred Dubliner, called .His hard-won wisdom allows him to recognize that raging against bloodthirsty record executives and unfaithful women — no matter how satisfying — takes less grace than calling someone home.Piano and mandolin-drenched first single “Winning Streak” skips along casually and loosely in the spirit of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”.offers up prayers to friends and family — and not with mere platitudes, but surges of white-hot honesty delivered in Hansard’s spoonful of sugar timbre.
Honeyed guest vocals by Sam Amidon and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam further cement the song’s “just a couple of guys trading verses around Levon Helm’s kitchen” vibe.
In contrast, album opener “Grace Beneath the Pines” solemnly turns inward, Hansard focusing on overcoming his own shortcomings.
It maintains a hymn-like momentum, save for a small break when Hansard lets loose with his trademark vein-bulging wail: “I’ll get through this.” At this point in his career, he doesn’t need to convince us.
Even stripped down, the song evoked a ripe New Orleans sensibility.
The album version finds Hansard leading a second line parade in Dr. Despite being recorded in various locales (New York, Dublin, Wilco’s The Loft in Chicago, and the Frames’ longtime haunt, Black Box Studio in France, with former bandmate Dave Odlum), the album remains cohesive and builds on the workshopping Hansard undertook while on a small tour last winter.