Since the beginning, Nellie McKay has indicated she's not a typical songwriter-pianist. Right as Nora Jones hit big with Come Away With Me, McKay showed up with an album titled Get Away From Me. The 2004 double-disc set displayed the lyrical charm of a cabaret performer with the sass normally heard from coffeehouse singer-songwriters. McKay also proved to be prolific, releasing another two-disc album and a single one over the next three years.
In 2009, she took a bold leap with Normal as Blueberry Pie -- A Tribute to Doris Day. Rather than cast McKay as a twenty-something taking on the Great American Songbook, the album played up the similarities between both performers -- diehard animal-rights activists with a lot of depth to their talent -- with modern, sensual spins on classics like "The Very Thought of You."
"A lot of people were skeptical of such an idea because [Day] is such an icon," McKay says by phone. "I was skeptical at first. It seemed like you'd have to have a lot of chutzpah."
Speaking of chutzpah, McKay's new Home Sweet Mobile Home finds her jumping styles with nearly every original song. "Dispossessed" evokes a swing-band tune (with a modern lyrical perspective) but moody opener "Bruise on the Sky" and "Coosada Blues" could have come from no less than Cat Power's Chan Marshall.
McKay performs two shows this weekend at The Andy Warhol Museum -- one of songs from Blueberry Pie, the second of original material.
Nellie McKay 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sat., Dec. 4. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $20 ($35 for both shows; students $15/$25). 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org
- The very thought: Nellie McKay