Vinicio Capossela – The Story-Faced Man (Nonesuch/Warner)
Outside of opera stars and the tackiest strains of disco imaginable, the world’s impression of Italian pop music has been negligible. Vinicio Capossela is just the man to change that.
He may claim to be heavily influenced by American outsiders like Jack Kerouac and Tom Waits (Waits associate Marc Ribot plays guitar on several tracks here), but there is no mistaking Capossela’s European roots: he sounds like he could easily be found playing the tarantella in a German bordello in the middle of a spaghetti Western.
Capossela has been recording for 20 years, has platinum records and has won the Italian equivalent of the Polaris or Mercury prizes several times. The Story-Faced Man, a rich 16-track compilation of his recent work, is his first proper North American album, and even then it’s a digital-only release—even an adventurous, globetrotting label like Nonesuch is tentative about marketing a weirdo Italian artist in North America. But though he has his seductively strange and theatrical moments, Capossela is ultimately out to charm you, and he has more than enough charisma and melodic gifts to do so.
He has collaborated with Balkan brass bands, Greek rebetiko groups, and the Arizonan eclecticists Calexico. His music ranges from tangos, torch songs, blues, Broadway, surrealist soundtracks, and straightforward tear-jerking ballads. With a novel and a screenplay also on his resumé—along with a reputation for theatrical stage shows—he’s a true renaissance man, and The Story-Faced Man is surely just scratching the surface of this enigmatic and fascinating character.
It’s time we all got to know him better, preferably over some red wine. You can do so this week, though you wouldn't know it from the lack of press surrounding these gigs:
Monday, March 8 at L'Astral in Montreal
Tuesday, March 9 at the Mod Club in Toronto
Wednesday, March 10 at Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago
Friday, March 12 at Bimbo's 365 in San Francisco
Saturday, March 13 at El Rey Theatre in L.A.
The Story-Faced Man is not available physically; it can be downloaded directly from Nonesuch or individual tracks from amazon.com. Earlier albums are available on iTunes.
Recommended tracks: "Maraja," "Il Ballo Di San Vito," "Con Una Rosa"