Max Garćia Conover “Deer”

Son Canciones, 2022

Poetic reflections on life and death.

Describing Max Garćia Conover as “the king of silent” the promo commentary offers an intriguing contrast to an album that on the first couple of listens sounds like a stream of consciousness that never ends. On the basis that first impressions can be unreliable, persist and what first come across as repetitive impenetrable monologues begin to open up into poetic muses that paint vivid pictures of sadness, anger, love and regret all with a searing honesty. In a limited vocal range Conover spits out the words as if he can’t rid himself of their meaning fast enough. But that anxiety is captivating and once tuned in, this listener was soon hanging on to Conover’s every utterance.  Conover is a singer-songwriter from New York who teaches in Maine when not on the road. He has been compared to Woody Guthrie, Chance the Rapper, James Joyce and Dylan Thomas, which by most estimates is a broad church. Yet there is something of each in this album. Certainly Guthrie for his anger at injustices faced by so many and with elements of rap’s relentless beat. Conover’s detailed soliloquies do evoke Joyce and his imagery and wordplay have a ring of Thomas. That’s quite a feat.

‘Mary Died A Lover’ is a bleak lament to a love lost following a miscarriage. Conover’s brisk acoustic picking is the only accompaniment that heightens the sense of loneliness and grief, his agitation in vain as he urges her to, “hang on tight now you’re my baby / wake up in the morning and that’s all it is.” Since writing it, ‘World War 3 Is Gonna Be So Dumb’, now has further resonance. His frequent changes of tempo creates the sense of the bomb that could go off anytime.  Beginning with a languorous statement of the title he speeds up to describe in minute detail ordinary lives being lived with all their petty annoyances, all about to be obliterated. There is nothing he can do about it, “I’m not trying to fix this/ I swear that I’m not/ I just want to stop dying.”

With Ben Cosgrove, Conover wrote the sprawling ‘I Saw The Devil He Looks Like Me’.  Together they combine the space of the world around them with a similar glance over the mental horizon. Cosgrove’s key emphasis space as they see what is looking back, “Cause I saw the devil/ He looks just like you/ Don’t take it to heart though/ I look like him too”. Scary.

Conover layers in an underlying menace to ‘Rich Man’, slowing down to enunciating each syllable before spewing out his vitriol for those whose riches are gained at the expense of the vulnerable. But he accepts with great honesty his inability to do much about it. Does he does also reveal something about himself, “It’s folk singers secretly want to be rappers”. The album’s other collaboration is with The Ballroom Thieves, a duo who share Conover’s predilection for the gloomier side of songwriting. Together their harmonies give ‘Mud’ a lighter more ethereal feel.

Tragedy and despair course through the veins of ‘Deer’ but Conover is too focussed on expressing himself, at times bluntly clear and others through a beguiling imagery. Max Garćia Conover is both a singer/songwriter and a poet whose work deserves the closest attention and persistence for a full, and very rewarding, appreciation.

7/10
7/10

About Lyndon Bolton 77 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between

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