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Patricia Barber is often criticized for being too heady and insufficiently heartfelt. And perhaps rightly so: Even though she plays an elegant piano and sings with a hushed, come-hither sexiness, most of her lyrics come across like thesis statements. On “If I Were Blue,” from her latest, Verse, she drops references to visual artists Hockney, Goya, Hopper, and Picasso. Turns out the song isn’t so much about feeling blue as the color blue. For “I Could Eat Your Words,” Barber rhapsodizes about falling in love with a professor, stuffing the song with lofty lines such as “I could eat your words/Suck the salt from your ‘erudition’/Light a fire under ‘inhibition’/Season ‘reason’ with a transitive verb.” Her music is difficult to digest at times, but it always has such a subtle groove that the nerdy songs tingle with sensuality. She plays tonight and Monday, Sept. 16, at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.25. (202) 337-4141. (John Murph)