|Photo by: Amazon|
Key Tracks: "Bendito," "Ponce Pilato," "Court the Storm"
I first came across Portland’s Y La Bamba last spring, at the Nelsonville Music Festival. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with their leading songstress, Luz Elena Mendoza, and one of her band mates. We talked about many things--the festival, artsy towns, growing older and figuring out this funny thing called life--but mostly we talked about music: what we loved about it, and how we came to feel that way.
“For me it started with the music of the Hispanic community that I grew up on,” she said. That was her jumping-off point. She talked about music being a part of the community--and also, the community being part of the music. And that, in a nutshell, is what Y La Bamba’s latest release Court the Storm is about as well.
Mendoza’s music, like her own past, is inextricably intertwined with the echoes of tradition and the resounding calls of the present--music like an heirloom tapestry: vibrant, varied and unquestionably beautiful.
“Bendito” offers the listener a chance to get lost in the layers of Spanish guitars, accordion and la lingua tradicional as it grows in intensity with every measure--building like the thunderclouds they court.
The mariachi elements of “Viuda Encabronada” will beg you to dance, while the searching “Houghson Boys” will ask only that you listen and feel a part of the music as the entrancing finger-picking and vocal harmonies pull you into their grasp.
The Spanish can fit more passion into a single note than most of us can fit into a lifetime, and Y La Bamba consistently proves this to be true. “Ponce Pilato” is the perfect example. It is a beautiful love song--all the elements of ardor and tenderness, yet no line or chord progression that could possibly be mistaken for cutesy or worse, inauthentic.
And then, of course there is the title track, the album’s capstone. Mendoza had also told me of music that, “It wasn’t just about a song, it was about telling a story.” Y La Bamba are storytellers, and this gem exemplifies that. It is also a microcosm of everything they have attempted on this album--and succeeded at.
Court the Storm is an exploration in how the music of the past can blend with that of the present and the result is a beautiful folk album which will surely earn a spot amongst the best of the year.
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