Every conversation about music with a friend of mine used to wind up as a one-sided discussion of Kelly Willis. She’d talk about the one record she couldn’t find, wonder aloud if Willis had ever recorded anything with Kelly and the Fireballs, the band she fronted as a D.C. area teen, and remind me that Willis was in Bob Roberts. For some time I couldn’t weigh in with my own opinion on the ambassador of alternative country to last year’s Lilith Fair, but before a trip to Austin my friend told me jokingly, if I saw Kelly, to “tell her I said hi.” One night my host in Texas took me to a bar littered with musicians and identified each one, including Kelly Willis, sitting at a table toward the back with husband Bruce Robesin and his brother Charlie. One by one they sang with the band. Finally I heard her honeyed twang, and now I’m the one looking for her records, including her next, to be released by Rykodisc in early 1999. With Bruce Henderson at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $17.50. (703) 549-7500. (Frances McMille)