While I was rooting around in the year 2000 thinking about Steve Earle’s Transcendental Blues, I ran across another great record from that year that hasn’t received enough attention, Amy Correia’s Carnival Love.
Correia, the daughter of a barber from the small town of Lakeville in southeastern Massachusetts, kind of backs her way into the contemporary folk category because her acoustic-based but beautifully produced and orchestrated music doesn’t really belong anywhere else.
Correia left Lakeville for NYC and Barnard College when she was 17 and majored in English, an influence very apparent in her literary, image-laden songs. When she was 19, two herniated discs returned her to Lakeville and an extended stay in bed, where she began to write songs and teach herself to play guitar (she now plays mandolin, ukulele, and keyboards as well).
Friends persuaded her to play in a local club and she was on her way: she returned to NY, finished school and lived in Chinatown (the title of a fine song on this disc) for four years.
She moved to LA in ’97. Many of her songs on this superior first album seem to be autobiographical, including “Gin” (about her love/hate relationship with the liquor), “Daydream Car” (about her escape from the boredom of Lakeville through fantasy) and the aforementioned “Chinatown”; while others display touching and insightful empathy, especially the title track,”Carnival,” where the bearded lady and the tattooed man, and the sword-swallower and the contortionist love each other for “exactly who they are.” It’s a beautiful, touching song that avoids easy cliches and gets beneath the surface of a clever idea to something more real.
Her voice reflects a variety of influences, but she sounds most like jazzy folksinger/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, and she presaged a bit of Norah Jones as well. When’s the next one Amy? It’s been three years.