This here girl to the right may look innocuous enough with her diamond-playbook of a green sweater, teeny frame, and "distinctive" nose. (Her adjective, totally not ours). But hand Casey Dienel a pen and a set of ivory keys, and she's pretty damn dangerous. Frrrreal.
She plays piano. She sings. She writes killer lyrics, clever-poetic one liners that make us wonder why we ever hit the keyboard. On Wind-up Canary, the full-length she's been selling at shows but doesn't officially come out until March 2006, she decorates her song catalogue with a novelist's props (Polaroids, windshield wipers, barrettes, Playboy, needlepoint) and stocks her lyrical pantry with strawberry wine, baked Alaska, a Folger’s can, an ice-cream cone, a Cracker Jack box. And even if you're not into the whole voice/piano cabaret thing, you gotta 'preciate lines like "You can't slow a man with a pendulum down" from "Cabin Fever" or "I called in sick to the bathtub today" from "Tundra" (which you can download at Dienel's MySpace page).
If official-connection cred makes you a believer, Dienel got signed in 2005 to Hush Records, the label made famous for first putting out the Decemberists. She studied under reknowned jazz vocalist Dominique Eade at the New England Conservatory (where coincidentally, Colin Meloy's sister was studying last year). Manda from the Dresden Dolls even has an entire blog post about going to see Dienel at the Lizard Lounge. Plus, something we forgot to tell you, Dienel plays piano on the Tiger Saw track on the upper left of this page, "Singing With Ghosts" (MP3 file).
So on the Monday before Christmas, we went up to New Hampshire's The Red Door with Dienel (see above), who'd just returned from a two-week Midwestern tour of coffee shops and living rooms with her upright-bass-playing boyfriend Nat Baldwin. (Tour high point: Thirsty Thursdays in a Kutztown, Pennsylvania she sold about 10 CDs to a bunch of happy drunk girls. Low point: at the Ugly Mug in Ann Arbor, an annoyed/lame woman asked if Dienel's piano playing would disturb her studying.) Anyways, Dienel played second. She led two singalongs. She sipped from a whiskey sour. ("I like old lady drinks"). She introduced "Embroidery" (streamable through her MySpace page) as "This song is about making out. Because you're all gonna home and either do that or wish that you were doing that." She made people smile. Even the Texas Governor (this one, not this one), who was plopped on the floor and fidgeting with an Oragina cap.
As of tomorrow (yes, tomorrow), Dienel relocates to Brooklyn -- which is what makes the MP3 exclusive down below sorta special, since today's her last day a Mass resident. Since Dienel's been living in JP for a little while, Wind-Up Canary's filled with local references: Huntington Avenue, Cumberland Farms, Boston concrete. But the best is "Frankie and Annette," a Masshole revision of "
Tonight Dienel's at PA's Lounge, 345 Somerville Avenue, Somerville with Tiger Saw and Jason Anderson and an after-midnight dance party with Dan Shea at 8:30, $8.
LISTEN: Casey Dienel, "Frankie and Annette" (MP3)