There’s an exotic subtext to the word “ménage;”: the promise of delights uncommon and often seductive. And then there’s the trope that good things come in threes, definitions that clearly herald the arrival of three young musicians poised to breach the national landscape.
Mary Ellen Bush and Sarah McDonald are the gifted talents that merged to form “Ménage,” a band whose intimate, harmonic landscapes echo the authenticity of Emmylou Harris, the Indigo Girls, and Neil Young. While legendary predecessors inform any current artist, Ménage has etched their own signature perspective: folk-rooted melodies wrapped in a bluesy swing, conveyed in grooves ranging from smoky, rollicking roadhouse, to dreamy, three-quarter waltz.
Ménage’s collective musicianship underscores lyrics of whimsy and gravitas delivered in unfettered harmony, sparked by the occasional Texas croon. Solid stringed riffs laced with distant artful flashes of harmonica and accordion are siren songs to those lucky enough to be within earshot.
Mary Ellen Bush and Sarah McDonald are the unique components of Ménage’s singular sound. Southern girls, all, their separate paths followed a musical trip-tik that ultimately merged in Asheville, N.C. at a popular local bar that promoted weekly Open Mics.
Mary Ellen’s journey began in Macon, Ga. with a side trip to the University of Alabama where she honed her guitar and sultry vocal chops packing the house in a raucous campus bar on Tuesday nights. Post co-ed Mary Ellen veered to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the artist-friendly embrace of Asheville.
Sarah’s journey began in Frederick, Maryland. At home, Dad fiddled on guitar, Mom played keys and toddler Sarah sat in. The imprinting took and Sarah drifted south to West Virginia University where she immersed herself in the world of theatre and music. After graduation Sarah headed north to New York City. Well, directions change, and after a year in The City, richer for her experience, Sarah revised her compass and headed south to Asheville, to warmer climes, and a fateful encounter.
And so we return to Open Mic night at the Westville Pub.
It was on that stage in 2003 that Mary Ellen’s and Sarah’s paths joined. A shared vision and mutual admiration inevitably led to trading tunes, and the nurturing of “Ménage.” By 2004 they’d recorded and released two critically lauded albums, The Honey’s On The Porch and Miss Conduct (voted in the top 100 by NPR listeners).