It's nice to discover a new voice on your own, but it's just as nice when it comes recommended from someone you trust. That's how Y La Bamba came my way: Los Lobos sax man and producer Steve Berlin slipped one of the band's CDs into my hand and said, "Listen to this voice." I'm glad he did, because I instantly became captivated by the sound of singer Luzelena Mendoza.
But, as you'll hear in this video, Mendoza's isn't the only memorable voice in the Portland, Ore., group; the rugged-looking choir boys behind her obviously find joy in blending their voices into rich vocal harmonies. They strum and pluck, but mostly they close their eyes and throw their heads back in gentle yet full-throated singing.
In this transfixing Tiny Desk Concert, Y La Bamba plays songs from its growing catalog, as well as one from an album due out next year. We've told Mendoza's story before, but hearing her and the band live adds another dimension entirely.
- "Crocodile Eyes"
- "Fasting In San Francisco"
- "Hughson Boys"
Michael Katzif and Maggie Starbard (cameras); edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Maggie Starbard/NPR