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After a decade together, the various members of 10,000 Maniacs have used the past year's respite from recording to expand their musical horizons. Guitarist Rob Buck is exploring R & B and African music. Singer and songwriter Natalie Merchant is working on her solo album. For the band's rhythm section -- bassist Steve Gustafson and drummer Jerry Augustyniak -- the flash of delight came over Labor Day weekend, when the four Maniacs instrumentalists were sharing a bill with Ithaca world-beat band Donna the Buffalo in Joyce's Keg Room in their native Jamestown.

"It was so great. Jerry and I wanted to play with Donna the Buffalo again," Gustafson said last week. "They do everything from zydeco to bluegrass. I love the feel of their music. It's vaguely reggae and it's so groove-oriented. I think the hard-core fans would appreciate it."

The result is a hybrid group called Smell the Plow, which brings Gustafson and Augustyniak together with three members of the Ithaca group -- fiddler and accordionist Tara Nevins and guitarists Jeb Puryear and Jim Miller, all of whom sing -- plus old-timey keyboardist Dirk Powell, imported from Maryland for the occasion.

They'll do just three dates. They were in Pittsburgh last night, and they move on to Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St., at 11 tonight and Joyce's Keg Room in Jamestown on Saturday night. Opening the Nietzsche's show is a powerhouse folk-rock trio from Boston called Big Barn Burning. Opening at Joyce's Keg Room are John Lombardo & Mary Ramsey, who accompanied the Maniacs on their recent Northeastern tour.

-- Dale Anderson

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