If you caught just the first third of the cabaret act at d.c. space last night, you would have witnessed a young singer overshadowed by an intrusive rhythm section. A half-hour later, you would have heard a gifted vocalist with a wonderfully fluid delivery singing a personable blend of pop and soul numbers. And if you arrived just in time for the finale, you would have watched a punk rock caricature, a man in a gray suit, wrap-around sunglasses and a thin silver lame' tie, strip down to his long johns before a cheering and leering crowd. No matter when you arrived you would have been greeted by Rick Carpenter, an entertainer of many moods.

When the band was in check, Carpenter did quite nicely, singing a pleasant balance of breezy pop tunes and love ballads, many of his own design, with considerable warmth and confidence and oodles of charm.

It wasn't, however, until his sister, DeChantal Williams, spelled him on stage that the rhythm section's volume seemed suitable. Williams' voice, gutsy and obviously indebted to Aretha Franklin, cut across the band's backing like a knife. More subdued accompaniment clearly suited her brother.

Rick Carpenter returns tonight.