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The 'Salt Potatoes' boil rapidly Sunday in Marcellus

Here in the frigid mid-winter upstaters crave salt potatoes.

It'll be several months until they harvest the new spuds, but you can whet your appetite by digging the Salt Potatoes, a quick-picking quartet entertaining at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, at the Marcellus American Legion Hall, 13 E. Main St., Marcellus.

The Salt Potatoes' music is just as tasty as their name.

"We concentrate on traditional music of this country and the British Isles," says guitarist Harvey Nusbaum, "but we're not above playing a good jazz tune, pop song or Swedish waltz."

Nusbaum, a former member of the Cranberry Lake Jug Band and a prime mover behind the Syracuse Irish Sessions, is joined in the Salt Potatoes by fiddler Tom Fay, bassist Bob Elfenbein and mandolinist Ted Curtis.

Because they regularly play for country dances, the Salt Potatoes specialize in hot versions of traditional tunes such as "Old Joe Clark," "Soldier's Joy" and "Arkansas Traveler." Western swing pioneers Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys also made their bones playing for dances, so the Salt Potatoes cover Wills' songs like "San Antonio Rose" and "Stay All Night."

"We also dabble in that new music the kids call rock'n'roll," quipped mandolinist Curtis.

For instance, they do a version of Van Morrison's mystical story-song "And it Stoned Me." Jazz fans will revel in their rendition of "Gimme That Wine," an upbeat alcoholic anthem by the vocalese group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

Not only does the quartet juggle styles, they also juggle instruments. All four of the musicians perform on various combinations of guitar, fiddle, voices, banjo and mandolin.

On one tune, "Roxanne's Waltz," Curtis, Fay and Elfenbein each bow a violin for a triple-fiddle attack.

On another, Bill Staines' song "The Roseville Fair," they turn in an impressive three-part vocal harmony.

On Merle Haggard's "California Cottonfields," Curtis puts aside his mandolin and picks up a bass.

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