PATTY LARKIN

"Red = Luck"

Vanguard

Singer-songwriter Patty Larkin has described the title cut on "Red = Luck" as a "meditation." Fair enough. But that description could just as easily apply to the entire soul-searching CD, including its acoustic centerpiece "Home," a yearning ballad written in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.

In fact, it's hard to imagine Larkin performing much of this music on "Red = Luck" in concert without punctuating it with some sonic relief -- perhaps a display of her considerable acoustic guitar chops or, better yet, her spot-on impersonation of Marlene Dietrich. Sure, there are upbeat tunes on "Red" (most notably the album coda "Louder," itself a meditation on contemporary noise pollution), but Larkin has rarely sounded so wrapped up in her thoughts, so in thrall with notions of what is real and what is imagined.

"All That Innocence," the album's opening track, with its allusions to "all those damaged daydreams blown up in a row," establishes a reflective mood. It's quietly reinforced by "Children," a bittersweet remembrance of things past; less quietly by "Italian Shoes," a shimmering ballad about love and the static generated by miscommunication; and still less quietly by "Too Bad," a rock lament inspired by a relationship turned sour.

Throughout the album, Larkin subtly and colorfully orchestrates her musings, relying on her gifts as a multi-instrumentalist and the many friendships she's made on the club circuit to help turn "Red = Luck" into what it was clearly meant to be: an absorbing listening experience.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday and Thursday at the Barns of Wolf Trap. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Patty Larkin, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

Listen in on Patty Larkin's thoughts on "Red = Luck," her latest release.