"I have to do a song about an old boyfriend so I better take off my wedding ring," muttered Sally Fingerett, one of four talented female singer-songwriters who shared the stage and harmonies at the Birchmere Tuesday night. "No," she hastened to add, trying to squelch the laughter, "it gets in the way."

As it turned out, the tune was one of the show's more restrained performances, as Fingerett, Christine Lavin, Megon McDonough and Patty Larkin engaged in a giggle-prone, two-set series of rounds. Each was devoted to a specific theme -- "best new song," "most meaningful song," "most requested song" etc. -- with the audience tossing in a few suggestions as well, including "most awful song." Fingerett and McDonough, who possessed the strongest voices, tended toward romantic musings, a cut above the garden variety singer-songwriter stuff. McDonough, however, proved too much a clown to play things straight for long, a Japanese version of Connie Francis's "Vacation" being but one example of her off-the-wall tangents.

Still, the most distinctive songs, and the funniest ones, were those composed by Lavin and Larkin. Although Lavin's giddy introductions were occasionally longer than her tunes, the payoff was worth the wait and often engagingly clever and loony. Larkin was even better. Not only were her parodies of Marlene Dietrich, Ethel Merman and heavy metal music hilariously on target, but her "Metal Drums," about the hazards of toxic waste, stood out as easily the best of the evening's thoughtful ballads. The show ended on a campy note, with all four women strumming guitars and strutting off the stage to the tune of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking."