Mark D. Conklin begins his EP release Starting Over with an emotionally powerful title track fueled by his voice, exceptional lyrics, and an attention to musical craft that may leave some quite impressed. It makes you ask, hey, where’s this guy been all this time? He’s been a musical artist for many years, a touring musician and songwriter, but he’s spent many of the preceding years working in artist management championing the talents of promising new comers while also serving as an industry executive. His return to producing his own art is welcome on the basis of this song alone. With its careful yet emotional instrumentation, including beautiful slide guitar placed within the song, “Starting Over” is a winner and rides as well on the near poetic yet plainspoken beauty of Conklin’s honest regret.
The patient exploration of the heart continues with the EP’s second tune “Circus”. It’s here where we get our first undeniable taste of his talent for imbuing songs with just the right added touch. He gives us just the right touch of drama with the addition of accordion at key points during the recording helping to accentuate his portrait of a fading past her prime performer who laboring under disillusionment, pain, and regret. Conklin has an obvious penchant for these down on their luck characters who feel life’s presumed promise has long since betrayed them and depicts them in painfully sympathetic fashion. The song begins in a low key fashion but Conklin orchestrates it exceptionally well and, by its mid way point, the song rises to a dramatic high before falling again.
“When a Girl Gives Up” is another stirring number thanks to its frank emotional tenor and, once again, the well-crafted musical arrangement Conklin puts into play. It’s familiar lyrical territory as, essentially, it’s a breakup song about that moment when the female partner has finally had enough and decides to cut loose her longtime partner. Conklin depicts the emotional desolation resulting from this with lean and yet pointed language heart wrenching to hear. The following track “Toy Soldiers” is a passionately worded denunciation of war, those who send the young off to die for false or ill-defined causes, and the effect it has on those back home. It’s another exceptional musical take from Conklin and the drumming is especially effective.
“Before the Flood” is another gem Conklin can be proud of. It features social conscious lyrics like the previous song, but his focus here is different as Conklin’s disapproving eye stares down the changing social landscape of American life and how so many have been left behind. The musical bent of the track is, once again, affecting without ever coming across as melodramatic. There are so many sparkling moments on this release that you can help but craving more, but it’s remarkably complete and satisfying as well. Mark D. Conklin has written and recorded a small scale but indelible piece of musical work that deserves heard far and wide. Let’s hope he is rewarded as such.
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