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Wind-Up Canary

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Album Review

On her debut album, Massachusetts native Casey Dienel spells Nellie McKay for a bit while the other brash young blonde piano player works through her record-label difficulties. Dienel isn't entirely McKay redux: the Broadway and hip-hop influences are missing on Wind-Up Canary, Dienel's piano playing sounds a little more boogie-woogie than cocktail jazzy, and her pre-rock vocal idol is more likely to be Edith Piaf than Doris Day. Still, Dienel's cutting lyrics about rueful love affairs ("Baby James," the Boston-specific townie romance "Frankie and Annette") and bizarre character studies (the album-opening "Doctor Monroe," a goofily surreal story about a drunk on a train) will feel comfortably familiar to McKay fans, and there's an undeniable vocal similarity on songs like the somewhat melancholy "Cabin Fever." To her credit, Dienel has a sparkling personality all her own, giving Wind-Up Canary a dry, mordant wit that's much less clever-clever than McKay's sometimes exhausting precociousness, and she's an impressively strong melodicist. Like McKay, Sarah Sharp and Sylvie Lewis — even Dienel's Boston buddy Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls, to some extent, and yes, also Norah Jones — Casey Dienel has updated the tradition of wide-ranging, jazz-influenced female singer/songwriters that's largely lain fallow since the heydays of Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, and Wind-Up Canary is a compelling, highly enjoyable debut.


Born: 1985 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Singer/songwriter Casey Dienel made her professional debut in 2005 at the age of 20. Previously, she had spent her childhood writing songs while living in a fishing community in suburban Massachusetts. As a teenager, Dienel moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory. She debated between a pursuing a degree in opera or classical composition; however, Dienel ultimately chose to write jazz-influenced pop songs instead. With a theatrical presentation that was at once sophisticated and quirky...
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Wind-Up Canary, Casey Dienel
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