"I'm just a California girl with a different sound," says fiddler-singer-songwriter Laurie Lewis of the Grant Street Band.

Raised in Berkeley, her "different sound," she says, is rooted in southern bluegrass and influenced by folk and blues. Lewis, a fiddler since age 12, says she looks for "modal, mountainy sounds and the more bluesy aspects of bluegrass music, as opposed to the progressive, swingier, smoother progressive styles."

Lewis has won many California old-time fiddling awards and has played with bluegrass traditionalist Vern Williams and singer-activist Holly Near.

She and her band, banjo-picker/guitarist Lynn Morris, mandolinist/fiddler Tom Rozum and bassist Bob Greene, make their Washington debut Wednesday at the Birchmere, playing traditional and original bluegrass music, much of it from Lewis' first solo album, "Restless Rambling Heart."

The show begins at 8:30 p.m. For information call 549-5919.

-- Alex Stoll

BOBCAT AT CLOSE RANGE

"I don't like the word comedian," says Bob (The Bobcat) Goldthwait. "I'm a live dancer who's learned to market my neuroses."

Apparently so, judging from his TV and and film appearances. On Friday, the adventurous will have a chance to experience Goldthwait's screaming, stuttering, swooning, twitching brand of comedy at close range when he performs at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.

"I'm a mass of contradictions," Goldthwait says. "I really don't know what I am going to say on a given night. I used to do anything, ventriloquism, cleaning herrings, Houdini the Pig ..."

Recently, he's tried politics and social commentary. "I don't believe in politics," he says. "I'll feel better when we have a welder for president. But this is still the best country we ever stole from anyone."

Friday's performance begins at 8 p.m. For further information and tickets call 626-1069. To charge tickets by phone, call 1-800-233-4050.

-- Gigi Anders

YOUNG'S ROOTS

Singer Jesse Colin Young returns to his folk music roots Thursday when he joins Jonathan Edwards and Karla Bonoff, Holly Near, Claudia Schmidt and Jesse Winchester for "Another Evening of Songwriters" at the Kennedy Center.

Young, a former member of the Youngbloods, says performing as a soloist is frightening but a challenge, too. "Each performance is a great opportunity, like a dive," he says. "You leap off the diving board and the opportunity is there to get a 10, to the judge, or to yourself, and although you don't hit 10s too often I can't imagine not reaching for them."

Young and the rest of the cast of performer-songwriters will reach for that perfect score beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday. For reservations and information call 254-3776.

-- David J. Marek

TAPPING IN

Charles (Cookie) Cook has been tap dancing since age 3 when he joined his father on the vaudeville stage in Chicago, his home town. Cook sees no mystery to his art. "It's not hard," he says. "I teach classes at Yale and I tell them, 'If you can walk you can dance.' "

Tapping is a great way to stay in shape, he says: "You can really tap that weight off. It doesn't work for me though." Cook concedes a fondness for the cuisine of the cities he tours.

Tonight at 7 at Baird Auditorium in the National Museum of Natural History Cook will be joined by singers Rose (Chi Chi) Murphy, Buster Brown and Chuck Payne , who along with Micki Davis will do a routine he and Lena Horne made famous. "Well it's no Ziegfeld Follies, but I think it will be a good time," Cook says.

For more information contact the Smithsonian Resident Associates at 357-3030.

-- Mairi N. Morrison SHOWING HIS THREE FACES

Composer, guitarist and poet Mickey Newbury wrote the Kenny Rogers and the First Edition hit "Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In." But for the last 14 years, he says, "I've been a-hidin' out in the mountains of Oregon, and it's just about the prettiest place I've ever seen."

Pretty, yet not the mainstream of the music scene. But, Newbury says, "I don't have any desire for notoriety and success. I'd just like to be able to record now and then."

Newbury's music ranges from country and folk to rock. "I was exposed to lots of things, and everything affected me," he says. "I am socially aware, but definitely a pragmatist. And my writing reflects my thinking."

The Houston-born Newbury and his group, the Three Faces of Texas, which includes Alex Harvey and Guy Clark, will play at 9 p.m. Friday at the Birchmere, 3901 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. For information, call 549-5919.

-- Gigi Anders

ROBERTS & ALL HIS JAZZ

Like George Shearing and Ray Charles, jazz pianist Marcus Roberts hasn't let blindness hold him back. At age 8, he taught himself to play the piano -- his mother bought it for him because, he says, he got in trouble for using the church organ one time too often.

Roberts only had one problem: "I taught myself so many bad habits," he says, "it's taken years to unlearn them."

Now 34, Roberts knows all the right techniques and has worked toward a musical esthetic exemplified by his idols Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. He is known to Washington audiences as a member of the Wynton Marsalis Quartet.

"I've been with Wynton for two years -- I'm having a wonderful time. It's a good experience to play solo, because it makes you deal with things -- the audience, technical problems, yourself." He pauses and adds, "but I'm still committed to the quartet."

His solo debut will take place tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Blues Alley in Georgetown.

-- Mairi N. Morrison