Artists have a right to experiment, to further their sound, to follow where their muse takes them. Indeed, without it there would be no musical growth, no Sgt. Pepper. Glen Hansard came to fame as the troubadour in 2007’s Oscar-winning Once, yet his solo work has gone farther. Last year’s Between Two Shores (QRO review) grew his adult contemporary folk into soul and blues. However, he pushes a bit too far, a bit too much of whatever he wants, on This Wild Willing.
Like The National’s recent I Am Easy To Find (QRO review), Willing is an hour-plus long record that feels longer, because it is so slow. Hansard can do slow, but it makes some of his journeys here seem too long and too off course, such as the tech-dark backdrop to opener “I’ll Be You, Be Me”. The darkness to the album also takes away much of Hansard’s charm, one of his strengths.
There are strong songs, and Hansard has the skill to put together what he wants to do. “Don’t Settle” has grand up-build, while the wry nature to “Race to the Bottom” makes the soft, dark, intimate piece much better. Yet there are other excursions that might have worked on a ‘regular’ Hansard record, but here come off as excessive, like the very quiet and slow “Weight of the World” or the meander “Good Life of Song”. When Willing finally ends with the old school folk troubadour “Leave a Light”, it’s a welcome return of older Hansard.
Written in studio and released only a year after his last album, This Wild Willing has some powerful elements, but overall could have used more refining.