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Connor Garvey’s ‘Another End of a Year’: Dazzling songwriting and performance

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Connor Garvey’s ‘Another End of a Year’: Dazzling songwriting and performance (Photo by Lauryn Hottinger)

I consider it a privilege that part of my job is to seek out new music worthy of your attention. The process is a bit like a treasure hunt that involves a lot of wading through the flotsam but when an undeniable gem surfaces, like Connor Garvey’s “Another End of a Year,” it makes it all worthwhile.

Garvey grew up in South Berwick and calls Portland home these days. Following periods where he lived in Portland, Oregon, Montana and Arizona, Garvey returned to Maine in 2010 and says he feels far more connected to where he lives now than ever.  

Garvey’s voice is an expressive instrument with remarkable range that draws you in with a friendly tone but in turn also sounds like maybe he’s been through some stuff.

During an interview with The Maine Edge, Garvey says “Another End of a Year” was five years in the making but he says the extra time invested ultimately benefited the finished record.

After logging some serious studio time in 2017 for pre-production work on the album, Garvey’s first daughter was born. He paused before resuming work, then paused again to shift gears for a project that found him aboard a cargo ship traveling from Maine to Iceland as part of a cultural exchange.

Five songs from his 2020 EP “Chasing Horizons” came out of that experience and put him in the proper frame of mind to take “Another End of a Year” all the way to the finish line.

Then the pandemic hit. And then his second daughter was born. Garvey laughs now as looks back and remembers wondering if the album would ever be complete.

“In hindsight I wasn’t always appreciating the time in between but I’m proud now of the perseverance of bringing it through,” he says.

Singer Sorcha Cribben-Merrill joins Garvey on a number of songs on “Another End of a Year,” their voices complimenting each other beautifully like two sides of a coin. We first hear them on the album opener “The Boat,” a melodic, meditative, song with chiming guitars that sets the tone for what is to follow.

Garvey says “The Boat” was not written about a specific moment of loss but it accesses that feeling. “If someone listens with that lens I feel they could definitely relate to the song in that way,” he says.

“Break the Cage” celebrates a message of freedom on a song that gives Garvey’s band a chance to shine, including guitarist Pete Morse (also the album’s engineer and co-producer, with Garvey), bassist Colin Winsor, drummer Dan Boyden and pianist Ben Cosgrove .

Garvey and Cribben-Merrill duet on the co-written “All These Things,” composed shortly after Garvey had lost his grandmother. He has one of her old coffee mugs and says he gets a chance to connect with her daily.

“It may have just been another mug in the cabinet for her but it’s full of meaning and connection to me,” he says.

Some songs on “Another End of a Year” sound similarly personal but part of Garvey’s gift is his ability to write from another’s perspective while making it sound like the song was inspired by his own experience.

“Lock Me Away” is one such song. What sounds deeply personal was actually written about the man known as “The Little Houdini,” Christopher Daniel Gay. An habitual thief and serial escapee, Gay is best known for stealing the tour bus of country singer Crystal Gayle.

“It’s an incredible story but I didn’t want to write the ballad of Christopher Daniel Gay,” Garvey says. “Instead, I wanted to access some of that cycle of feeling trapped and trying to escape. I was inspired by hearing his story on a podcast but I wanted the song to feel like I might be writing about something in my life, therefore someone else might be able to have their life connected to it.”

One of the album’s singles “Water to the Well,” deals with depression from the perspective of a loved one desperate to fix it but none of his tools are capable of doing the job.

We all know someone like the troubled character of Valerie in the song “Pendulum,” which Garvey says was inspired by a couple of people he knows in addition to a fictitious character from a book that formed a composite subject.

The title song is one of this album’s highlights and is sung from the viewpoint of a guy that is sometimes his own worst enemy, he knows it, he owns it and he wants to change. It’s a majestic piece of music with perhaps Garvey’s finest vocal.

The closing trio of songs are among the best on the album, each an example of compelling, exemplary storytelling and songwriting.

The feeling that nothing can get in your way is celebrated on “The Song,” as two young lovers sit in the driveway with the car running while the music plays and the world stops spinning.

The seriously mature love song “The Man I Want to Be” was written on that cargo ship from Maine to Iceland, Garvey says, adding it’s one of the songs he’s most proud of on this record.

“Shine Shine Shine” sounds like a long-lost standard. Garvey’s voice, accompanied only by his guitar, sings what he describes as a lullaby for any age.

“I sing it to my daughters when I’m putting them to bed,” Garvey says. “My hope is that it’s one of these songs that can apply to any of us as we step into the world. What’s around us might appear black and blue and bruised but it’s a soft call to action to be the light that helps push away the darkness.”

As singer-songwriter albums go, Connor Garvey’s “Another End of a Year” is simply top-tier material, a record that’s completely original and brimming with musical ideas and emotional depth far beyond his years. It is certainly one of the best records I’ve heard so far this year and yet another example of a Maine artist deserving of a global profile.

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 July 2022 09:17


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