My Spanish isn't as great as it once was, but when Y La Bamba's Luz Elena Mendoza pulls out an unfurling falsetto to sing "Escu-u-uchame" at the beginning of the song "Bendito," I'm definitely going to listen to her. Hell, she could sing in a made-up nonsensical language and still manage to command attention. I've followed the evolution of the local frontwoman's voice for years, and it's obvious that she puts in the time for the rewards. It's not just her overall range that continues to grow—no, it's all of the little intricacies and idiosyncrasies, too. Each miniscule inflection, each fluttering trill, each verbose gut-filled melody. Each adds to the intrigue. And seeing her perform unveils small bodily quirks pertaining to her different vocal styles. Whether it's the way she positions her lips, tilts her head, or throws down her arms, she nails everything so well that it's sometimes hard to listen to her in the confines of a recording.
With that said, the album version of the Mariachi-esque track "Bendito" does give you a taste of her vocal dynamism, as you'll hear her go from a playful whisper to a dramatic belt over a few minutes. Off the band's freshly released album Court the Storm, the song is entirely in Spanish, and the catchy percussion and staccato accordion rhythms keep the accessibility aflame for non-Spanish speakers.
It's not only Mendoza who carries Y La Bamba either. The guys behind her play big roles in building the band's hybrid American/Latin-infused folk-pop sound. Guitarist Paul Cameron's vocals are impeccable, and when the group throws in three, four, and five-part harmonies, it's almost overwhelmingly good.
So—I write this with the intention of encouraging you to listen to today's Cut of the Day, but for the greatest tipping point of appreciation, I also suggest an Y La Bamba live-in-the-flesh experience. Regardless, enjoy the talents and hard work set forth in this here post.