CHARLIE KING knows a good song when he hears it (or writes it), and that in itself sets him apart from scores of folk singers who sing idly of the need for social change.

Some of the songs on his current album, "My Heart Keeps Sneakin' Up on My Head," are King originals. "The News, the Blues & the People," which examines media bias in a whimsical yet biting fashion, is reminiscent of some of Phil Ochs' satirical broadsides. "Last Night Danny Went Sailing" recounts the demise of a friend King met at a soup kitchen, a grim tale that extends from Harvard to homelessness to suicide. And "Camerado," a genuinely affecting love story, is part King's and part Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road."

Other lyrics were contributed by contemporary songwriters who have a flair for poetic description and, for the most part, resist belaboring the obvious when writing about, say, the military complex or immigration policies. Arranged for a spritely collection of strings, percussion and reed instruments (and enlivened by Dave and Kay Gordon's harmonies), the music is every bit as tuneful as King's earnest and appealing voice. CHARLIE KING -- "My Heart Keeps Sneakin' Up on My Head" (Flying Fish FF349); appearing Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the the Washington Ethical Society auditorium, 7750 16th Street NW.