Mark Stepakoff,
There Goes the Neighborhood
(self-produced, 2006)

In the '60s, we has Shel Silverstein offering humorous songs with a bite. In 2006, we can turn to Mark Stepakoff to perform this vital service, and this album is an excellent introduction to his work.

Mark has a way with words and he knows how to add the right piece of music to complement the lyrics and sentiments.

"Worst Case Scenario" is probably one the most unusual love ditties you will hear in many a year. Yet the sentiments are true. I never expected to hear a catalogue of disasters incorporated into true romance.

But Mark is not all about fun. Listen closely to "Regrets Only" and find a new perspective on how that innocuous phrase we see almost every day can bring heartbreak. The magic of this writer is how he can see this connection and then write a song about it.

The love theme continues with "It Ain't Over," another lovely song about a dilemma brought about by love. "Amanda Peet" is his rather offbeat love song to the actress and a diatribe against overly thin people. Maybe if he has a crush on Amanda he could take his own advice as on "Means to an End."

"Mighty Sam McLain" is a story/song and tribute to the blues legend of that name. It is also a chronicle of changing music popularity; as he says, "soul turned into disco and Sam lost his way."

One of the best tracks on offer is "General Gao." Here again we get some history but also some fun. Who ever connected ancient Chinese wars with takeout food? Stepakoff does and ordering Chinese will never be the same.

The saying goes that we should hide our profound messages in the long grass. Mark hides his in humour and it hits home all the more powerfully for that.

by Nicky Rossiter
8 April 2006

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