Music • Utah group adds fresh take to traditional bluegrass to create a unique blend: Americana 2.0.
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Many people who went to see the Coen brothers' 2000 film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" were charmed by George Clooney's pomade.
But something else enchanted many other people, including Bountiful resident Marie Bradshaw. At the movies, she found her musical path.
The inherent simplicity and authenticity of bluegrass music attracted her, leading her to the spotlight as one of three singers in The Folka Dots, a Utah acoustic band that infuses traditional bluegrass with a fresh, youthful take. It's Americana 2.0.
"I was never really aware of this genre," Bradshaw said. "I was hungry for something. We live in an era with manufactured ensembles and Auto-Tune."
Now, the quintet is introducing audiences to a genre that's about the most alternative an alt-country band can be.
"I think sometimes it's the first exposure people have to this music," she said. "I think it is refreshing for them."
The band is on a touring roll after coming together more than a year ago. Bradshaw, 22, and her sister, Kiki Sieger, 21, had been singing with Bountiful High School friend Corinne Gentry, 25. That's when Brian Manecke and Bronk Onion, both 32, approached the three with the idea of starting a band.
"I couldn't believe that I found someone else who liked the Carter Family or Patsy Cline," said Manecke, who added that he had wanted to be a cowboy since he was 5. This was the next best thing.
Within 20 days of meeting, The Folka Dots Gentry came up with the name had gathered inside a studio to record an album. The resulting album, "Down Below," featured 13 songs, with only one a cover. ("Single Girl, Married Girl" was written by A.P. Carter, a founding member of the Carter Family.)
Audiences often assume all of the band's songs are covers from the likes of Bob Nolan or Jimmie Rodgers. That's mostly thanks to The Folka Dots' sound, with three-part female harmonies along with backing vocals from Onion, and accompaniment that often includes a banjo, acoustic guitar, tambourine and fiddle. But Sieger said most of the songs they perform are originals, although the band doesn't mind the presumption. "That's a compliment," Gentry said.
"Yes, [The Folka Dots are] a little unique," said Dan Buehner of The Trappers, a Utah band that considers The Folka Dots its "sibling band." But that's exactly why the young band stands out in the local scene, he added.
What makes the throwback band so remarkable is that the music never sounds forced. The twang is genuine. "It doesn't feel like I am reaching when I play this," said Onion, who grew up watching the Grand Ole Opry on TV with his grandfather in New Mexico.
"It's natural," Gentry said. "Music knows no age."
Two shows, two eras
A double dose of the Folka Dots.
When • Friday, Feb. 24, at 9 p.m.
Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $6 at door
With • The Trappers, The Devil Whale, Spell Talk
Also • Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.
Where • First Christian Reformed Church, 900 S. 801 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $10 suggested donation