Review | Y La Bamba

Y La Bamba

Y La Bamba, Ojos Del Sol, Tender Loving Empire

Mexican American group, Y La Bamba‘s fourth long-player, Ojos Del Sol, takes on heartbreak and healing in equal measure. The new album is the result of a near four-year hiatus that lead singer, Luz Elena Mendoza, spent healing from past traumas and creatively recalibrating her process, embracing the healing properties of music and art.

Title track ‘Ojos Del Sol’ has a raw, soothing sound akin to finding a field recording of Harry Smith‘s. This bewitching tune feels both ancient and fresh as the day is new. A lo-fi jewel carried off with a slightly out-of-tune guitar, backing vocals and finger snaps, coming alive with Mendoza’s divine voice that she uses as equal parts a musical instrument in its own right.

The upbeat, deeply poignant ‘Ostrich’ features three-part harmonies that perfectly balance the opposing senses of tradition and evolution. Y La Bamba excels at channeling the past while existing thoroughly in the present, and ‘Ostrich’ is the successful result of that aesthetic. “Some say I come from a land of milk and honey and holy tradition,” Mendoza proclaims, going on to declare: “ We are Cain/ We are Abel/ A memory/ And I know you better.”

‘Iris’ returns to that tin can alley, ancient sound, bringing to mind Woody Guthrie with its roots in traditional, Americana folk. This traveling song sublimely captures the free-falling, intimate possibilities found in simple human connections. ‘Ulysses’ – in all its upbeat warmth – is a loving celebration of life. “There’s a danger to stay asleep when one is alive,” Mendoza muses in this track praising living in the moment, actively living one’s life and taking stock of its abundance. The cunning use of harmonium in just the right places makes the spirit soar in the same way Devotchka is able to stir the soul.

Mendoza recently told The Portland Mercury, “ Every time I make a record, I think of my family,” and she and her band’s latest achievement feels as warm as a loved one’s embrace. It marks a huge milestone in the development of this music project, where all is laid bare and generosity of love and spirit overflows. A compulsively listenable and loveable album from beginning to close, it is proof positive in the healing properties of music and human connection.

Megan Beard

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