When Christine Lavin, John Gorka, Patty Larkin and David Wilcox brought their "Songs of a Winter Night" tour to the Birchmere last night, they performed round-robin style, each stepping forward from his or her bar stool to offer a "most requested song" or "newest song," as emcee Lavin called out the topics. They each had specific strengths -- Lavin was the funniest, Gorka the best songwriter, Larkin the best guitarist and Wilcox the best singer -- but their bantering camaraderie was the show's most appealing quality.

Among the "newest songs" were fresh anti-war numbers from Gorka and Larkin in response to the Persian Gulf crisis. Gorka's "Temporary Road" is a ballad about a young soldier with his call-up orders in his pocket as he skates on a frozen river and questions the solidness of his assumptions. Larkin's "Shed a Little Light" was an acoustic rocker with a catchy guitar figure and a lyric that asked for a little truth from the "prophets and politicians."

Most of the show was much lighter, as all four flashed a wicked wit. Lavin called up to the stage the local seven-member vocal group the Georgetown Chimes to sing along on her hilarious lampoon "Sensitive New Age Guys." Larkin managed to accurately impersonate Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Miranda and Ethel Merman, all in one song, "Shopping at the Mall."

The four sang honky-tonk harmonies with tongues in cheek as Gorka ended the set with "The Pilot Light Is Out on Our Oven of Love."