Toronto-based songwriter, actor, filmmaker, cultural curator, and long-ago Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman is an eccentric and deeply talented artist, the kind of guy people have in mind when they throw around the phrase “renaissance man.”
But for all of Wiseman’s multi-disciplinary passions, he’s most in his element as a musical raconteur. His first batch of original tunes since 2008’s live album, The Legend, is a rollicking series of theatrical, offbeat sonic vignettes—10 unique stories composed and performed in a delightful range of styles, from baroque folk to funk-laden R&B jams and everything in between. Arrestingly beautiful as often as it is jarringly wacky, Giulietta Masina touches on memories of Burning Man, the misdeeds of G20 cops, and even the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was fatally tasered by the RCMP at the Vancouver International Airport.
But the album’s most unforgettable moments are the ones that tug at the heartstrings: a deeply melodic tribute to his close friend, the late actress Tracy Wright (“Mothface@yahoo.ca”), and a gorgeous, piano-led, stream-of-consciousness ode to another of Canada’s music treasures (“Neil Young at the Junos”).
While these quirky compositions are sometimes overly verbose, it’s hard to think of another artist who could bring so much depth and sincerity to this wide variety of unusual subjects—and that’s what makes Wiseman a songwriter worthy of such high esteem.
Playlist picks: “Giulietta Masina at the Oscars Crying,” “Neil Young at the Junos,” “Mothface@yahoo.ca”
Bob Wiseman plays a CD release show at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick Ave.) on Jan. 24.