For a woman with small-town roots (Lakeville, Massachusetts, alongside the charmingly named Assawompset Pond), Amy Correia revealed her restless nature immediately on her debut EP, Transportation Songs. Previewing her then-forthcoming full-length, “The Bike” is a meandering reminiscence that details her childhood lovingly but unsentimentally in the form of a passed-down Sears and Roebuck bicycle. The most immediately engaging track on Transportation Songs, however, is the single “Daydream Car,” which could be the hippie vibe of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” as channeled by Nelly Furtado. It’s tempting to hear this in the context of Correia’s own journey from New England to New York and, ultimately, Los Angeles, where she fell in with the scene around producer Jon Brion, whose vibe — eclectic, literate, free-ranging in its musical explorations — would match Correia’s own recordings.
Four of the EP’s six songs reappear on Carnival Love, a deeply impressive debut album with an utterly idiosyncratic blend of folk, pop, blues and country. Strictly in terms of her singing style, Correia could be the dreamy, poppier descendent of Rickie Lee Jones and Victoria Williams. Accompanying herself on guitar and baritone ukulele, with support from a host of talented sidemen and producers, she proves herself both a gifted writer and a charismatic, if unpredictable, singer. The songwriting, often inspired by literary sources, takes on diverse topics — whether elegizing a lost “Blind River Boy” (who sounds a lot like Jeff Buckley), getting bluesy about past romances (“Fallen Out of Love”) or mourning missed opportunities (“Starfishin'”). The production is equally diverse, from the funky “Daydream Car” to the sparse (think Lisa Germano) tones of the acoustic tracks.
Correia and Capitol parted ways after Carnival Love. Four years later, she issued Lakeville, a self-financed effort, via Nettwerk America. If it lacks some of the debut’s dizzying diversity, the elegant and even profound songwriting more than compensates. She’s still restless, at least in her geographical themes, with “59th Street,” “California” and “Coney Island, USA” kicking off the disc. The instrumentation is simpler, the tone is tranquil, even placid at times, but it is never boring. As a singer, Correia has very obviously discovered the blues, expanding the lilt of her debut with urgent moaning and cooing. “The rain came down on 59th Street / And I didn’t mind at all,” she sings in the opening track, and that sense of contentment emerges throughout, even in “Hold On,” in which a jailed addict writes to her child. There’s a sense of cool in the recording, whether the late-night vibe of “Stranded” or the hometown ode “Laketown.” Correia sounds like a woman in full control of her artistic vision, even if the rest of life remains hard to handle.