“The Gospel According to Mark” (LP) by Mark Conklin

Music

You don’t have to understand a single word of the lyrics to recognize that singer Mark Conklin has a lot in his heart to sing about in his new album The Gospel According to Mark. Music is an all-powerful entity that doesn’t acknowledge the earthly borders we place between one country and the next, and it certainly doesn’t require proficiency in any human language; after all, music exists where words aren’t sufficiently expressive. Mark Conklin is making music for a troubled world beside one of the oldest consistently-followed texts on the planet, and it doesn’t take an advanced intellect to see how important his statement is.

The Gospel According to Mark is a rare example of an album with a heavy religious bend to it that doesn’t employ self-righteous narratives to make a point about finding love and happiness in our world. Rather than alienating audiences with a bluntness uncalled for in this setting, Mark Conklin invites all of us to share in what we have in common; a love for God, music, and appreciating the very intimate relationship that will always exist between the two. His message is a positive one, and it’s the kind of thing that contemporary Christian music could use a lot more of.

I think this record makes a strong case for gospel album of the year, and this year has certainly needed a stronger release from that particular category. Gospel music has always been one of the most beloved subgenres in all of pop music, and it’s been rather sad from a critical standpoint to see the moniker’s best artists experience an abrupt departure from prominence in the last thirty years. Mark Conklin is coming around at just the right moment, not only for his career but for that of the community that he represents.

The two-dozen tracks featured on The Gospel According to Mark are much more like immaculate, intricately arranged soundscapes than they are singular songs, and though each one could stand alone as its powerful release, they all flow together at a stately progressive pace. It’s nice to see that there are still artists who care about making an entire album work instead of just recording a few good singles and piling a bunch of filler in to complete the LP. Nothing on this album feels like it was rushed or doesn’t belong right where it is.

I’ve always believed that much like faith, music has the power to heal all wounds, and Mark Conklin is doing his best to use his music to heal the world around us right now. This isn’t music that reminds us that we’re damned or tries to convince us to change our lifestyles in favor of someone else’s way of thinking. This is the antithesis of arguments, the enemy of division; this is music for a people who need to come together and remember that we were all created by a single divine entity; the same entity, I might add, is responsible for creating the music we use to worship it.

Loretta Kim

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