Review Orkesta Mendoza – Curandero

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If you like foot-stomping, high-octane, seriously easy to dance to cumbia and ranchera, then you will love the latest offering from Orkesta Mendoza: Curandero. I was fortunate enough to see these guys at WOMAD festival, way back in 2018 during their ¡Vamos A Guarachar! Tour, and they didn’t disappoint – in fact, lead artist Sergio Mendoza was sporting one of the most impressive moustaches I’ve ever seen. So, I was keen to give their latest offering, and third album, Curandero a listen, in the rather different setting of my own front room.

You can tell that Mendoza spent his own childhood alongside the US-Mexico border, with tracks on the new album blending lyrics in both English and Spanish, with boogaloo, rock and roll, cumbia and traditional ranchera style rhythms a main feature on most of the tracks. It’s boogaloo, that 60s rock and roll feel, with clanging guitar riffs, that gives Curandero a unique Tex-Mex feel. “Boogaloo has lyrics in English, Spanish and Spanglish,” Mendoza says. “Joe Cuba mixed Latin rhythms, soul and R&B together and made something new. The R&B part was a real reference point for me, but the rhythm was obvious in the percussion and the handclaps.” It’s through using rhythms and sounds that are so inherently tied to each culture, such as mariachi’style trumpets, that Orkesta Mendoza’s latest project continues to make you want to get up and dance.

“La Paleta” kicks off the album with strong cumbia sounds, it’s incredibly bailable and addictive listening. Worth noting that this project is filled with collaborations from Mendoza’s musical contacts, including Quetzal Guerrero, Nick Urata and Chetes amongst others. “Originally it was going to be just the band, but it turned into our collaboration album! As we recorded, I kept hearing different voices for the tracks. I knew I wanted Nick, then Joey Burns of Calexico was just right for guitar and bass on “No Te Esperaba”, which also features Chetes from the legendary Mexican rock band Zurdok.” Mendoza comments. This unique blend of sounds and musical styles is what keeps the album feeling fresh from start to finish.

So, is it fair to say that Curandero is music that transcends borders? That’s certainly an apt description. Once this album is on your playlist it will lift your earlobes to a different time and space. It feels both intimate, it’s only 40 minutes long, but varied enough to keep you tuned in – with each collaboration sounding like a different friend is stepping into the mix to contribute their own unique flow. These guys love to rock out, and if you do too then this latest album from Sonora’s most eclectic rock-loving, cumbia-aficionados is a must-have .

Curandero will be released by Glitterbeat Records on April 10. The album is available via Bandcamp and other platforms.


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