Corinna hopes her star-crossed story will have a happy ending.

Faery Tales 

Corinna hopes her star-crossed story will have a happy ending.

Often, effective art carries the burden of discomfort. From the brilliant yet cringe-inducing film Happiness to J.M. Coetzee's punishing yet poignant novel Disgrace to Elliott Smith's diary entries set to song, such works force people to confront unpleasant issues, the kind of ugly human truths that they usually turn to entertainment to help them avoid.

On the local front, no musician addresses a broader emotional spectrum than twenty-year-old Corinna, whose three discs convey wildly different moods. After Chasing the Ghost, a confessional debut that dealt with her father's death and her battles with substance abuse, she returned with The Deeper You Go, the Higher You Fly, an extended love poem with arrow-pierced hearts dotting every "i" and "j." Swelling with full-band arrangements and bursting with longing, it was an album that could make listeners sigh blissfully or snarl, "Get a room," depending on their capacity for vicarious romantic enjoyment. But when Corinna's muse abruptly left the area, leaving behind only an unsentimental message that contained no forwarding information, she suddenly had to face the situation posed in hyperbolic hypothetical form in The Higher You Fly's title track: I wouldn't know what to do/If I lost you/I wouldn't know how to live/Within the absence of your kiss/And I wouldn't know how to fight/Without you in my life.

Corinna answers with Bless the Child, unofficially a concept record about alienation and deep betrayal. Eschewing the other musicians, who seemed vaguely intrusive on her previous public display of affection and who would seem like heartless trespassers on this stark collection, Corinna takes her acoustic guitar-playing and songwriting to a new level. "Raining in My Heart," with its resigned, subtle chorus and neatly wrapped conclusion, might be her best composition yet. "Blue"'s erratic rhythm conveys the nervous tension of waiting by the phone for a call that might never come, and "Don't You Lie to Me" replaces her wounded-angel delivery with an appealingly husky accusatory tone. Lyrically, however, Bless the Child is so bleak that listeners might occasionally feel like awkward guests at a dinner party that ends unceremoniously with a bitter shouting match between the host couple. A typical passage: He took my heart/He had it in his teeth/And he devoured it with such ease.

It would be easy to picture Corinna as Corey Flood from Say Anything, strolling around at parties with her guitar and wailing Joe lies/When he cries. Instead, Corinna writes her songs within what she calls a "faerie ring," a circular structure within her bedroom decorated with sticks, stones and pictures of Tori Amos. Corinna places song titles into envelopes, then meditates on them within the faerie ring, with prolific results. It's not unusual, she reports, for her to compose ten songs in a single night.

However, Corinna's creative core does not neatly confine itself to these circular sessions. "I'm constantly hearing a voice singing a song," she claims. "It's actually kind of haunting. They come when I'm eating or sleeping or watching a movie, and I'll have to leave the theater and go home and put it on record. Otherwise, they won't go away."

Corinna's children, as she calls her songs, don't always nag her about her defunct relationship. Bless the Child's scope extends to "Damaged," a harrowing account of Corinna's gang-rape at age fifteen. They made me dirty that night/They made me bleed/They passed me around/But my screams made no sound, she sings, her voice trembling with delicate power. Lyrically, it's her most impressive achievement, one that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as its inspiration, Amos' "Me and a Gun."

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