In his fine old ballad, "Banks Of The Old Bandera" Rodney Crowell once wrote about his boyhood ramblings along a wild Texas river, a transcendent space and time with a view: "...where you see clear down to the bottom...depending on where you stand, how you look and what you want to see." As a young boy, Mark Barker stood on the banks of Troublesome Creek deep in the hills of East Kentucky and saw clear into God's Creation with all it's majesty and intricacy. From those sandy banks lined with willow and sycamore, Mark saw time swiftly passing and the reflection of a rich mountain culture being quickly carried away with the current of the changing times. He saw the good in people wherever he could find it. He saw love and truth; beauty and danger; joy and sorrow. He saw the sudden passage of his own idyllic childhood before it could be fully savored. Mark made himself a silent promise to always keep looking for deeper possibilities...and to forget nothing he ever saw. Through the mind's eye of a poet, Mark Barker translates his simple views into honest and compelling words and music. He uses only a handful of tools: a pen, a pad, a flat-top guitar, the soul of a crafty and gifted composer, the heart of an empath, and that old boyhood promise to imagine and remember. In this second collection of his original works, Mark continues to refine his mystic art while pointing us in the direction of contemplation and self-knowledge. Like the ever-changing surface of Troublesome Creek, Mark's music is the mirror of his soul...and ours. His songs flow down naturally and patiently from the peak of his vision. They entertain and inform. They reveal and provoke. They inspire and amuse, often simultaneously. His stories spellbind and enthrall us. His phrases, melodies and chord inversions don't simply happen to be good...they unfold as he plans them. Like sweet old medicinal recipes made of natural ingredients from the good earth, Mark's songs are designed from their conception to be both good and good for us. To all who heard and loved his first batch of tunes, Mark promised more tales from Hindman, Kentucky, as it was in the late 1950's and '60's. We can almost smell "Little Beat's" restaurant, a tiny, sweltering space where the country cooking was served almost too good...so good that, on at least one occasion, a regular patron of substantial girth and wit is said to have refused to leave the premises until Beat had read aloud the day's menu of entrees already gone when he arrived too late to share the delectable fare. We shiver, shuffling alongside the crippled man, bearing his daily cache of cardboard boxes homeward at winter twilight in "For Reuben". We go winding back to childhood in Springtime, down along the trace of a barefoot path through a familiar cane thicket alongside "Troublesome Creek" to look at life...as it really used to be. This Hindman is another place lost in another time, but Mark's songs transport us...there. Mark promised us he would report back from places in history; places in the secret chambers of his and others' hearts and the hidden recesses of his own fertile imagination. He vividly paints for us the dusty early American West and it's boomtown "Deadwood". He dons the role of a hillbilly reporter relaying the real deal back to us in cryptic detail from Bill Clinton's 1993 peace-fest in "The Oslo Accords (Yes Sir, Yasser)". We eavesdrop on two redneck lovers' melodrama from the sweaty dance floor of the local American Legion Hall in "I'm a'Tellin' You". He flies us south to various tortured border points of romantic call including "Matamoras" but also lands us in the hollow, empty place where lovers simply have "Nothing Left To Say". Mark touchingly recounts the universal joys and perils of his own fatherhood in the tender "Matthew's Song" then pours us a straight shot of every southern songwriter's blue mistress-muse in "My Sweet Melancholy". Sing me down brethren, but it's no small feat that Barker simply Nails several song styles that deliver us to the very point-figuratively or factually...emotionally or actually--where each song originated in his writer's mind. Mark Barker, the boy, made a promise to himself long ago down on the banks of Troublesome Creek. In this new collection, Mark Barker, the man--the Artist--, delivers on that promise from a spot somewhere deep in his heart and the wilds of his adopted East Tennessee. As he shares with us the promise of all that he sees through these songs, Mark shows us a reflection of ourselves in this collection he calls "Troublesome Creek". Linger, listen and take a good long look, friend. You can see things a lot deeper, depending on where you stand, how you look and what you want to see. Doug Jones 10 March, 2006.