Like her closest male counterpart, Lyle Lovett, k.d. lang has shown she can successfully move back and forth between the often incompatible genres of country and pop on the strength of her lyrical savvy. With All You Can Eat, lang drops the country twang to embrace an adult contemporary sound that's half playful Marianne Faithfull, half mellow Elvis Costello. All You Can Eat is a scrumptious treat, a short yet thoroughly cohesive album of heartfelt ballads and odes to sexual ambiguity.
Rather than completely abandoning her country roots, lang masterfully infuses the sentiment of the genre into her touching verse, backed on All You Can Eat by only a bare minimum of instrumentation. While this "less is more" technique failed on Natalie Merchant's first solo effort, k.d. lang's beautiful vocals sustain All You Can Eat's minimalism. Each of the album's closely related songs stands as testament to lang's intimate understanding of unrequited love's bittersweet pain, be it for man or woman. Whether defiantly proclaiming on "I Want it All," "I'll take as much as you can give me, but I want it all!" or meekly crooning on "You're O.K.," "I am wrought with paranoia/for I have brought myself before you/nakedly awaiting your O.K.," lang draws the listener in with her keen turns of phrase. She is at once proud and vulnerable, reflective and passionate.
If there's a problem with this album, it's the length. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, All You Can Eat only whets the appetite for lang's precious voice. It may not be all you can eat, but k.d. lang's emotional new album nevertheless offers a few tasty morsels of aural pleasure.