May 11, 2011 by: Ben Rayner

Onetime Rheostatics drummer Dave Clarke shot me a link the other day to “Geddy Lee,” an ebullient new tune and video by his band the Woodshed Orchestra, with the promise that “it’ll make you smile right away.”

Well, it did make me smile right away. And it’s been making me smile ever since, primarily because this rowdy klezmer chorale – an ode to a certain bassist in a certain beloved Toronto rock institution – has been playing on endless loop in my head. In a good, non-sanity-straining way, mercifully.

The 14-piece Woodshed Orchestra articulates in just two brisk minutes and a couple of droll verses the affection many Canadians feel for the voice of Rush: “Geddy Lee is a Canadian national treasure / Playing the bass in the greatest rock band ever.” It’s a truly joyous little dance-party pile-on, and the accompanying video is a delight, too – a colourful choir session that you’re instantly kinda jealous you weren’t a part of because it looks like so much fun. At least the Orchestra has been kind enough to subtitle the video in seven different languages (including the stylistically appropriate Hebrew) so everyone can get in on a little vicarious action and wonder aloud: “How many kids living in the Great White North started up a band because Rush seemed the sort of guys who would encourage you to start up a band?” That's the best Geddy-themed lyric since Pavement’s “Stereo” mused: “What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like a regular guy.”

I’m listening to the rest of the Woodshed Orchestra’s self-titled new album for the first time as I write this and it’s a riot, too. Funk, soul, country, New Orleans blues, slinky jazz, Stones-y rock ‘n’ roll and just about everything else you can imagine impeccably played and rendered in several garish shades of joy. Smiles abound.