Although they share the same last name, it's hard to imagine a less likely pairing than Luz Elena Mendoza and Sergio Mendoza.
While both have roots in Mexico, Luz Elena makes her home in the Pacific Northwest and has fronted a band called Y La Bamba. That group sets Luz Elena's deep, evocative voice against backing vocals so rich, I once described Y La Bamba's other singing members as bearded choirboys. There were direct Mexican influences in the music, but not many.
Sergio fronts Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta, a band he's modeled on the big, brassy sound of mambo groups popular in Mexico in the 1950s and '60s. There are horns, a steel guitar and even a vocalist who dances Mexican zapateados while he sings.
What producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) has effectively done is pluck Luz Elena Mendoza out of the lush, wooded Pacific Northwest and place her into Sergio's version of the hippest Southwest cantina you'll ever find. Being a fan of each Mendoza, I hear both of them in these tracks, but the result is one of those "sum is greater than the parts" situations. Luz Elena's voice resonates alongside Sergio's multi-instrumental prowess as she sings poetic lyrics about love and life.
When I first heard that the Mendozas were working on a project together, I was excited to hear the results. But even I had no idea I'd enjoy them this much.