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Sweet Potatoes offer folksy flavor


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The last time Laura Hall was in Columbus, here for singer-friend Tim Grimm’s concert last year, she found herself snowed in at the Grimms’ house in Ogilville.

She also found herself days away from a scheduled West Coast taping of The CW’s comic musical improv television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” where she serves as keyboard player.

“The machinery that goes into television is so big that it’s really hard to call and say, ‘I think I’m going to be a day late,’” she said, speaking by phone from the Van Nuys, California, home she shares with musical cohort and husband Rick Hall, also a comic actor. “I was starting to get a little panicky.”

However, she made it to the sessions for the show she calls “the most fun gig ever.”

Hall, who writes and performs her own material as a solo Christian artist and also performs with The Sweet Potatoes, a mainstream folk group, promises an equally enjoyable time tonight in Columbus.

She and her Sweet Potato cohorts — Kelly Macleod, who once toured with Eddie Van Halen, and her spouse — will perform a free show at First Baptist Church, 3300 Fairlawn Drive. The concert is part of a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the church’s current building.

When Hall performs on the road, she normally plays guitar, ukelele or accordion. She’s presenting tunes ranging from standards such as “Wayfaring Stranger” to the Eurythmics’ 1980s’ pop, “Sweet Dreams.” The latter tune, on the group’s latest disc, features impressive harmony between Hall and Macleod in a folk arrangement that seems to easily fit the lyrics.

“For me, whether it’s music that I do at my church or somewhere else, it’s all the same,” Hall said. “It’s kind of like Amy Grant’s stuff or Emmylou Harris. Even if what they’re singing isn’t specifically faith-oriented, you still can feel their faith in it. So for me, it’s all connected.”

First Baptist’s choir will join the trio for one of Hall’s gospel works, “Pray For Peace,” written shortly after 9/11. Their 70-minute local show also will feature the lighthearted storytelling of her husband, who is funny enough to have appeared on television’s “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” When she is out in public with him, she calls him Mr. Friendly, for the way he strikes up warm chats with nearly every stranger.

Lately, away from the stage, she tunes in to Americana music, including Grimm’s material, and to what is labeled as roots music with artists such as Sarah Jarosz.

“I do like listening to a lot of different stuff,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why I like things like Pandora (online radio) so much. You can pick a different genre every afternoon.”

Keith Arbuckle of Columbus, a longtime friend of the Halls, suggested bringing in the trio for part of the church’s celebration.

“I see them as really fun people presenting family friendly entertainment,” Arbuckle said.

Folk tunes. Faith tunes. Contemporary tunes. Stories.

A tasty mix, apparently.

“We almost do,” Hall said, “something like a variety show.”

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