Most days I would say my favourite paleta is Chicle, with its bright blue colour and gumballs at the bottom. But sometimes, if I find myself in a sour mood, I’m gonna reach for the Lime. Or, if I’m extra happy, if I have a little extra pep in my step, I’ll probably grab the Pepino con Chile. Luckily the corner store has a freezer full of paletas just in case I’m not sure what mood I’m in. What I do know is, Orkesta Mendoza’s newest release Curandero, is what I’ll be listening to as I decide. With just as many options for just as many moods Curandero, released April 10th, has just what you need for every feeling you’re feeling.
Orkesta Mendoza, led by Sergio Mendoza, straddles more than emotions, they straddle borders. Mendoza grew up on both sides of the US/Mexico border and naturally the music reflects the dual inspiration. Curandero is cumbia and ranchera, it’s boogaloo and rock and roll. Curandero is our paletería where we can open the doors and pick out the perfect accompaniment to whatever it is we are feeling. Do you need to cry? “Little Space” is gonna get you there. Want something to make you happy? Get into “Early in the Morning” or “Paleta”. Feeling especially in love? Get your boo a little “Eres Oficial”. Got an itch to dance? “Hoodoo Voodoo Queen” or “Boogaloo Arizona” are just the thing for you.
Curandero has a little something for everyone and every moment. Sometimes that can be overwhelming like the album can’t decide what it wants to be. Orkesta Mendoza, however, has figured out how to create an album full of distinct moments without sacrificing cohesion. It could be because this isn’t their first ride. Curandero is the group’s third album and the third time is definitely the charm. The previous two albums are also great but with Curandero it feels like Orkesta Mendoza hit their stride, and they just kept going. The multifaceted-ness gives the album authenticity, it sounds like Mendoza is just rocking out to music he loves, which makes listening all the more enjoyable, and who couldn’t use a little more joy.
Curandero is full of guest appearances that really add to the flavour of the album. “Head Above Water” features Nick Urata from DeVotchKa who takes us straight to The Police. Amparo Sanchez hits us with a borderland boogaloo on “Boogaloo Arizona”. Joey Burns, Mendoza’s longtime Calexico bandmate, breaks your heart with his bass in “No Te Esperaba” a Rock n Roll song that feels both distinctly Mexican (probably because it also features Chetes from Zurdok) and distinctly American. “Hoodoo Voodoo Queen” closes the album by transporting you to a rockabilly bar with pompadours, victory rolls and wiggle dresses everywhere you look, just follow the voices of Gaby Moreno, Moira Smilie and Carrie Rodriguez. Several songs, including “Paleta”, “Are We Better Now”, and “Little Space” feature women singing the background vocals. This was such a smart choice; it adds so much texture and depth to the album. It is the attention to details like that and the invitation to emotional exploration that make Curandero an instant favourite.