Patsy Montana and Cathy Fink are yodelin' sure that while they strengthen their friendship, they can close the generation gap for women in country music. After Fink, a local folk singer, sang Montana's "That's Where the West Begins" two years ago on a Los Angeles radio talk show, the show's host encouraged her to contact the 70-year-old Montana, who lives in Long Beach.

"I was quite shy about it," Fink recalled. But she went ahead and was invited to lunch with Montana, whose "I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" sold a million copies in 1935. Since then the two have corresponded and performed together.

Fink is outspoken in her admiration for Montana, who sang 20 years of pop-western on "The National Barn Dance," a live show on Chicago radio station WLS. " 'The Barn Dance' was the Grand Ol' Opry of its time," Fink says. "Patsy was totally booked with the Barn Dance. It's where she got her following. Now there are very few shows that have performers on a consistent basis, performing live. You have to constantly recognize that she was one of the first."

Their show on Wednesday at the Birchmere, with the help of Fink's "Rhythm Ranch" band, will be their first appearance in the area together.