These days, the news for singer-songwriter Dave Allen is all good. He's just won the first Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest, sponsored by the Songwriters Association of Washington and WMAL/AM63. Allen took third place as well. Last week, he sold two songs, including the contest winner, "Front Page News," to a major Nashville publishing company. And any day now--maybe even today--his wife will deliver a second child. "Front Page News" was about Allen's first child, Michael, so it wouldn't be surprising to hear a follow-up called "Extra Extra!"

The songwriting contest attracted almost 1,000 entries, some from as far away as California. The 10 winning songs, performed by their writers, will be broadcast by WMAL live from the Barns at Wolf Trap this afternoon at 3.

For Allen, it's well-deserved recognition after years of struggle and occasional success on the Washington club circuit. Whereas some artists lose their spirit to the vagaries of club work, Allen's practicality has kept him working through thick and thin. "I've always had a chance to play solo," Allen points out. "You can always get a gig for 50 bucks or whatever and I've sort of built that into a good living. Whenever a band was in doubt or broke up, I'd just pick up some gigs and work solo until the next band came together."

Allen's strong commercial instincts will be more evident when his self-produced album comes out in mid-July, with 11 original songs, including "News" and third-place winner "Working on a New Love." In the meantime, he'll showcase his new band (which has opened for Pure Prairie League and others at the Bayou), work with a trio at the Ground Rounds in Manassas and Woodbridge, and perform solo at Armand's. Allen also works a day job--as a shipping clerk at Veneman's Music Emporium. "It's the only thing I know how to do, to work musically."