You would expect a debut CD offered by a twenty-year stage veteran to have a certain quality of musicianship, and "All In" certainly satisfies, then surpasses, those expectations. When the lyrics are sung with a voice that one reviewer calls, "velvet sandpaper", and written by a penetrative, insightful poet that's also a standup comedian, radio personality, and assistant martial arts instructor, you have what yet another reviewer calls, "Everything you could hope for in a Texas Singer/Songwriter."
The scope of this album covers such diverse subjects as optimism in the face of impending disaster, finding love in the perpetual squabbling of a brother and sister, and a dream about playing it safe that was so vivid that it spurred the commitment that resulted in this CD more than a decade later. There's a take-no-prisoners message about self-deception, a dire and somewhat graphic warning about water conservation, and some brand new variations on the love gone wrong theme, including a "while it's handy" twist, and a driving little boogie about "getting used to it" that draws, shall we say, an uncomfortable analogy.
With home studios so common, why wait so long to get out a CD? "I've had to become a control freak." says Barker. "I've made compromises in other areas of my life, and I've rarely been happy with the results. I just couldn't do that with my life's dream. I'm sure I could have put something out several years ago, but it wouldn't have been nearly the product that this is."
A standout feature of this solo acoustic project is that there are no "filler" tracks. Every note on this disc has earned its place, and every track is somebody's favorite. From the opening riff of "Hurt Me Good" to the virtuoso instrumental finale of "The God Song", this collection of well-crafted, well-performed songs tends to unveil more of itself with each listen, and immediately sparks the hope that the next one won't take as long to produce.