Growing up in the tiny fishing village of Sciutate, Mass., Casey Dienel learned to play piano, and likely explored the picaresque nooks and crannies of her neighborhood. Nowadays based in Brooklyn, the singer-songwriter pulls from that idyllic upbringing for Wind-Up Canary, her debut for Hush, and even brings along some of her New England Conservatory pals to contribute to the instrumentally varied disc. Dienel's old soul persona, layered with Laura Nyro's wild imagination and a little bit of Carole King, rounds out this warm-hearted record. But it's her sharp, sophisticated tongue and private naïveté that makes Canary such a promising debut, and one suggestive of Nellie McKay's similarly terrific introduction with 2004's Get Away from Me. From the cabaret style of "Embroidery" and the autobiographical "Everything" to a drunken fable called "Doctor Monroe," Dienel's kindness lifted from the pages of a fairy tale will melt even the toughest chips off shoulders. The polished horn arrangements in "All or Nothing" and the banjo-happy heartbreaker "Baby James" waltz around the postcard sentiments of "Frankie and Annette," and if Dienel denies the power of affection one minute, the next she'll concede that love is all we need. "Stationary" says it all over the light brush of an acoustic guitar. "I can't shake you off, no matter how hard I try," Dienel sings. "I can't just pick up my pen and write about something else."
MacKenzie Wilson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.