The creator of one of the two local compilations submitted to Random Acts’ anticlimactic mix-tape competition has come forth to reveal himself: Norrs Orbach, compiler of The Wedding Mix, take your bow.
After a few months off for a true rock-star “sabbatical,” Fisher Meehan is back with a whole new lineup for his pet beast DrugMoney, which is again making its usual rounds at Vincent’s Ear. Only Fisher remains from the acclaimed MTN CTY JNK release (Hybrid, 2004); the new crew includes MANBAND pillars Chad Pry (bass), Josh Carpenter (drums) and Christian Woodall (trumpet).
Meanwhile, departed DrugMoney keyboardist and all-around local-music superhero Tyler Ramsey has wrapped his new solo record, due on local shelves early this fall.
Menage, The Watershed; Friday Aug. 27
A bit of advice for when you next go to see Asheville’s sultriest trio, known simply by the not-so-classy moniker Menage: Take a date, or at least a friend. Even your dog will do.
I only say so because I felt a tad shady sitting alone in the corner of Black Mountain’s Watershed (filled otherwise with a healthy assembly of Friday-night revelers), scribbling notes, listening carefully and, worst of all, taking several pictures of the sometimes scantily clad threesome. (“Somebody call the cops. I think the loner with the camera and the notepad might be after the girls in the band.”)
But however you choose to go, don’t seek out Menage to be wowed by instrumental musicianship. Their songs feature a certain stripped-down sound, usually comprised of upright bass, acoustic guitar and a metal-bucket rhythm section. But while the trio’s straightforward licks won’t make you weak in the knees for another guitar solo (especially since there are none to begin with), you better believe their singing voices will.
Mary Ellen Bush, Sarah E. McDonald and Rhett K. Thurman are, to date, Asheville’s most sought-after three-way. Despite less than two years together, the trio’s remarkable vocal prowess — both individual and collective — is certainly among the main sirens luring more and more folks to West Asheville these days.
Born out of Westville Pub (where all three singers still work), Menage balance angelic harmonies with devilish dispositions. Their sound is part ragtime and blues — with a dash of pop sensibility — part chain-gang spiritual and gospel.
And yes, the women of Menage are sexy. They often change outfits between sets, while they decorate their stage with various ladies’ dainties, each with a bit of old-fashioned flair.
Speaking of frilly underthings, you can purchase your own at any of the trio’s shows, along with their new CD, Miss Conduct. Each pair of panties is locally embroidered with the band’s name and a naughty cartoon scene — they’re a bit of a steal at $15 each (and, I don’t mind saying, rather comfortable to wear).
Miss Conduct (Honey Records, 2004) itself was also made locally, with producer Bill Reynolds (formerly of DrugMoney; see above). The album includes an impressive string of originals, plus a few sultry-yet-tasteful takes on old traditionals as well.
Despite all their lingerie attitude, Menage is still more PG-13 than porno: Their persona pleasantly recalls the naughty-yet-nice-young-housewife vibe exemplified by the car wash scene in Cool Hand Luke.
Menage are worthy of the snowballing hype surrounding them. The trio unveiled their electric side at The Watershed, making their plugged-in debut on a couple of new originals, plus a fine cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” And while some Menage faithful in attendance were less than impressed with the new electric sound (“It’s like my Georgia acoustic girls trying to be Boston rockers,” complained one West Asheville fan), it really adds a welcome new facet to their usual acoustic approach.
Score: Using the homemade-dessert scale to judge this week’s performance, Menage rates a bowl of vanilla ice cream (with, of course, three cherries on top). Catch the trio next on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Jack of the Wood in Asheville.
[Asheville-based music writer Stuart Gaines, a contributing editor at An Honest Tune, can be reached at email@example.com.]