Mary Foster Conklin

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If the name Mary Foster Conklin reminds you of the girl in high school who wore coke-bottle glasses and won first place in the senior-year Biology Fair, that's not who you'll hear on this record. Nor will you find a trace of the usual "cabaret singer": that painfully earnest woman, clad in black, who bares more of her soul than you ever wanted to see. Those images crumble in the title track, a manic sendup of every mushy song about a lover's paralyzing gaze. Mary views urban life and relationships a good deal more acerbically, and in her debut album she casts a skeptical eye upon those sentimental clichés that tend not to come true. "I don't do romantic love songs very well, she says with a laugh. "It's just not been my experience." But humor, irony, and intelligence are second nature to a singer who, since the late 1980s, has plied her tart voice in most of the clubs on Manhattan's cabaret circuit, notably Eighty-Eights, Don't Tell Mama and La Belle Epoque. In rooms that present hundreds of performers each year, Mary keeps distinguishing herself. Her repertoire spans about seven decades -- from Johnny Mercer to Laura Nyro to David Cantor, who contributed four new songs -- yet she gives it all a contemporary outlook. The inclusion of a new lyric set to the music of Dexter Gordon points up her affinity for jazz

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