In February, when the summer folk festivals are still five months away, it's easy to forget that traditional acoustic blues musicians still live in this city. Flora Molton and John Cephas have kept the best of those blues traditions alive for many years and through all seasons. Last night at Blues Alley the two veterans took the chill off a wet winter night with a dose of blues as powerful as any found at the big-name festivals.

Flora Molton has been a Washington street singer and church shouter for more than 40 years. Accompanied by two young men -- Larry Wise on harmonica and Ed Morris on guitar.

Molton played slide guitar and sang with a gospel-fueled, heart-shuddering frenzy. She gave her gospel lyrics an earthbound bluesiness unheard since the heyday of the Rev. Gary Davis.

"Bowling Green" John Cephas & "Harmonica" Phil Wiggins reminded one of the days when Sonny Terry & Browne McGhee still sounded fresh and hungry. Cephas sings and picks guitar with the deceptively understated assurance of a McGhee or a Josh White. The much younger Wiggins was the evening's biggest revelation. He soloed on harmonica with a blues-rooted but jazz free sense of dynamics. He is welcome evidence that the country blues tradition will neither die out nor grow stagnant.