Though Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard has been around for some time, Drive All Night is technically only his second solo effort (after 2012’s Rhythm and Repose). This four-song EP was released to raise money for Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit charity whose goal is to restore music education in public schools.
The title track, a Bruce Springsteen song I hadn’t heard before from his 1980 album The River, leads off the set. Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder provides backup vocals and Jack Clemons – nephew of former Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons – fills the holes with some soft saxophone runs. While the simply written track builds itself nicely, I would prefer if it weren’t eight and a half minutes long.
One thing I love about Glen Hansard is he doesn’t really have a formula for writing songs – there’s not always a distinction between verse and chorus. It seems as if he just lets it all flow out and doesn’t worry about following conventional song structures. This unique songwriting quality is evident on “Pennies in the Fountain,” channeling a man who has not moved on from a romantic relationship in his past. “Renata” continues with this stream of consciousness style of writing, delivering the type of emotional and honest vocal performance he is known for. The acappella “Step Out of the Shadows” closes the EP in mysterious, Irish tone.
While Drive All Night has a few nice moments, it’s not exactly what I was hoping for. It’s certainly not a bad group of songs, just not as exciting as most of his earlier stuff. To be honest, I haven’t yet heard his last effort, Rhythm and Repose, but I absolutely recommend his work on the soundtrack to the 2006 movie Once, which he also starred in.
Key Tracks: “Renata,” “Pennies in the Fountain”
RIYL: The Civil Wars, The Frames, Ryan Adams
You can stream the record below: