SI KAHN is one of the best songwriters in American folk music today, and John McCutcheon is one of the field's best instrumentalists. McCutcheon has played on Kahn's records and has recorded Kahn's songs on his own albums.

For the past year or so, these two old friends have been touring with sign language artist Susan Freundlich in a show called "Signs of the Times." Now a new album of the same title presents 10 songs from those shows along with four studio recordings.

This album doesn't represent Kahn's best songwriting nor McCutcheon's best playing, but it's an amiable collection of topical songs performed with warmth and conviction. Much of the political satire is funny the first time you hear it, but, like even the best jokes, doesn't hold up to repeated listenings.

This is equally true of Kahn's fantasy of Jesse Helms gettingregnant and of McCutcheon's contention that "just one thin swimsuit stands between the porno star and the beauty queen."

A few overly sentimental songs about old friends and small children are redeemed by the sincere vocals and by McCutcheon's spry solos. The two songs likely to outlive the album's topicality and sentimentality are Kahn's poetic title anthem and McCutcheon's old- fashioned country love song, "If I Were a Featherbed." -- Geoffrey Himes.

SI KAHN & JOHN McCUTCHEON -- "Signs of the Times" (Rounder, 4017); appearing Sunday with Susan Freundlich at the Hoover Auditorium in the Department of Commerce.