The closing "Spiral Through the Wheat" also features a quick strum, though the live way Conover chose to record this makes Wyman's job a little tricky, as the guitar and vocals have to be rounded off at times to make sure they don't max out the levels when Conover gets excitable. The songwriting's attention to dynamics is part of its appeal (some might find it "precious"), but I think it works better in person in this case.

"The Creek Woman Poet" is the strongest track here, even if the guitar part is the simplest accompaniment. The song is wonderfully compact, talking about the craft of poetry construction with lyrics that manage to escape cliché. "Show me how to hunker down," Conover implores, "show me in my heart there's light among the liars." While he repeats phrases, he rarely utilizes what you'd call a chorus, and here that last phrase serves as the chorus of sorts, closing the song just as it began.

Even as a strong track, though, I can't say it's a playlist kind of song, and that may be where Conover has room to grow. The sound is there, comforting and intriguing and inviting. The lyrics are there, interesting and evocative. The project as a whole is cohesive. But I think there's a spectacular song or three somewhere inside of Conover that he hasn't found yet, a calling card.

I'm looking forward to hearing it.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at

BIRCHES LO | Released by Max García Conover | with Sammie Francis | at Mayo Street Arts, in Portland | Feb 10 |

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