Y La Bamba

THE BEE’S KNEES: Sometimes rock ‘n’ roll is all about innovation, or at least finding a new way to tweak an old model. Other times, though, it’s simply about doing something as good as — or better than — the ones who came before. On their aptly titled debut record, First Rodeo, honeyhoney dished up a brazen take on two-piece folk rock that drew comparisons to the likes of Nancy & Lee and Gillian Welch. Armed with an alto that can morph between pretty country balladry and scorching bar rock, frontwoman Suzanne Santo is a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced as much by her turns at the mike as her tall, dark, and sultry good looks. Santo’s accompaniment comes by way of Ben Jaffe, a scruffy guitar-wielding twenty-something whose chops range from twangy finger picking to a moody command of the lap steel.

On record, the pair dish out crisp jams that fluctuate between dusty, ramblin’ stream-of-consciousness ditties and lush, explosive country stompers. And in the live realm, they promise to bring it all to glorious life.

They may not be reinventing the wheel, but their unabashed love of good old country — and the reverence with which they perform it — more than makes up for the “throwback” stigma. Want to check it out for yourself? Go see honeyhoney play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) this Friday, November 11, at 8 p.m. with Joshua James. For tickets and info, call 962-7776 or visit newnoisesb.com.

YOUR NEW FALL SOUNDTRACK: And speaking of gorgeous female vocalists, this Wednesday marks Y la Bamba’s long-awaited return to Muddy Waters Café (508 E. Haley St.). Since the band’s stunning 2010 stopover, they’ve been plenty busy, including a nice cross-country trek with alt-folk luminary Neko Case.

If you’re unfamiliar with these Portlanders, get ye-self to a computer, stat. Frontwoman Luz Elena Mendoza lays claim to an immediate, haunting, and malleable voice that’s as stunning as it is peculiar. Her songs pull equally from traditional Mexican music and American art-folk, and the lyrics, sung in English and Spanish, are no less poetic or imagery-laden in either form. And backed by some of Stumptown’s most impressive multi-instrumentalists (who moonlight in area bands like Meyercord, AristeiA, and Loch Lomond), it sounds all the more intoxicating. In truth, the band’s debut for Tender Loving Empire Records (2010’s Lupon) has been my go-to cold-weather listen for almost two years now. Y la Bamba plays Muddy on Thursday, November 17, with Death Songs and Little Owl. Get there. For info, call 966-9328.

PLEASANT SURPRISES: In the midst of all the New Noise insanity, I failed to shine a much-needed light on a killer collection of musicians. While the majority of the concertgoing populace was twirling glow sticks and basking in the laser light of Deadmau5 a few weeks back, I piled into Muddy Waters Café for a glorious trifecta of folk. Among the lineup, S.B.’s Islay Street and Ghost Tiger made a nice little S.B. music sandwich around Reno, Nevada, sextet Buster Blue. Armed with an instrumental setup of guitar, bass, drum, glockenspiel, banjo, accordion, and a healthy helping of heavy-duty chains and buckets, Buster offered up an intoxicating and foot-stomping take on the chain-gang music of the early 20th century. And strange as it sounds, their folk-punky approach made it work and nearly brought the crowd to its knees in the process. Word on the street is that the guys will cruise back through S.B. at the beginning of next month, so keep your eyes and ears peeled. It’s not to be missed.


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