Ballad of Alvin Ridley
"Tell a bluebird not to sing..." Thus I immediately responded to my dear old friend Mark Barker's comment that this batch of newly recorded songs would likely be his last. True writers can't stop inscribing their visions, you know. They must write in much the same way they must breathe, eat, drink and sleep. Their writings are who and what they are. Like King Solomon, I contend that 'Where there is no vision, the people perish' (Proverbs 29:18) and that these certain writers, artists, prophets and visionaries possess what the clergy term a "Calling" which far transcends their flawed identities and fleeting lifetimes. Their visions belong only to God and to the highest aspirations of mankind across the millennia. They are known to disappear for days into a wilderness to wait for a single word. Down through all recorded history they have been ignored, feared, scorned, persecuted, tortured and even dismembered for the words they wielded. They follow hidden, mystic paths as if driven by animal instinct or some frontal lobe malady akin to Virginia Ridley's 'Hypergraphia,' but their true urge and inmost unction comes from the depths of the soul. Mark Barker's soulful songs and creative visions will continue to echo down the long corridors of time for future hungry souls to savor. Thankfully, they are also here for us to relish in this passing moment. Songs like these come only to whom they will...only when they will... but they seem to regularly visit Mark Barker, perhaps because he reveres and honors them; perhaps because he waits-upon them, patiently courting them out of hiding. Mark always has and will often offer to share the crafting of these jewels with his friends, but many of his finest pieces will continue to be those uniquely born of his own spirit. Like a runaway horse, Barker's untamed imagination is only free when the reins are loosed and he is "given his head" to chase his own personal vision. Eminently hummable, elegantly understated words and music of such beauty, love, wit, wisdom, pathos, humor, joy and despair will always pour down from him continually, for at least as long as he can still think clearly. He is the unwitting "Keeper" of these iridescent sonic pearls...and they are his most intimate spiritual "Charge". Please check your preconceptions at the door and let flow into Mark's stories, styles and musings, all inexplicably honed here to a finer edge than on any of his excellent previous releases. Similar in many ways to Alvin Ridley, the unlikely namesake and anti-hero of his latest song-cycle, Mark Barker is busy herein just being himself, and thereby "just being different," which is his only crime. Aren't we all so guilty? Follow if you will, friend, as Mark Barker's simple songs lead straight into your heart, Doug Jones Father's Day 15 June, 2008.