Patricia Barber: Modern Cool

Modern Cool is an atmospheric foray into the off-beat sensibility of Patricia Barber, a young pianist and singer from Chicago. Her compositions are intelligent observations of modern urban life, beginning with “Touch of Trash,” a portrait of a perfectly made up woman who’s “just a culture short of class.” Barber’s voice is sultry and appealing, a perfect mesh with her subject matter. “Silent Partner,” a song about illicit love, has the feel of an old fashioned ballad. There’s some strange material on this recording, such as a “noir” version of Paul Anka’s “She’s a Lady,” and a simmering rendition of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” But so what? Barber seems so sure of herself it hardly matters.

The late-night mood of Modern Cool is enhanced by the guitar of John McLean, whose ethereal, eloquent sound sets the mood from the first cut. Sidemen such as Mark Walker on drums provide ideal backup for Barber’s nocturnal magic.