Ethereal vocals, Latin-inspired rhythms and bittersweet melodies are the essence of Y La Bamba's second, full-length album, "Court the Storm."

The Portland group, named for lead singer Luzelena Mendoza's Persian-tabby cat, Bamba, is going on five years.

The band's sound barely resembles its closest relative, chamber pop, and is more accurately defined by LA Weekly as "Devendra Banhart-influenced art-folk with hazy, femme vocals and traditional Mexican sounds to weirdly entrancing effect."

The band will kick off its CD release tour at 9 p.m. Friday, March 9, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

With Mendoza at the helm, Y La Bamba is guitarist Paul Cameron, drummer Mike Kitson, bassist Ben Meyercord, accordion player Eric Schrepel and ukulele player and percussionist Scott Magee.

"Court the Storm" rides the waves of tribulation, love and life. Mendoza says the lyrics, some of which are in Spanish, weren't meant to be philosophical, just reflect life.

"We all have s—-," she says. "We have bills to pay, mothers to call, insecurities to face. It's all about life."

She uses the image of a storm, both fierce and thrilling, to illustrate challenges that, over time, spur people to persevere.

The only daughter of a Catholic Mexican immigrant, Mendoza has had her own set of challenges to face.

As a child, she was put on a strict diet of Mexican music but rebelled during her preteen years and began listening to R&B, rap and hip-hop.

"Music is my sixth sense," she says.

Mendoza was on a "crusade" to India when she came down with a debilitating illness and had to return to Ashland. She began performing at open mics and recorded a rudimentary batch of songs, which caught the ear of The Decemberists' Chris Funk who volunteered to produce the band's debut, "Lupon," released in 2010.

This album set the mood for the band. Rife with references to Mendoza's early upbringing and family heritage, the recording features her silky and surreal vocals over rustic, indie folk arrangements.

A similar sound is carried out Mariachi-style in "Court the Storm," produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Berlin. The new album is "powerful, dramatic and vocal heavy," Mendoza says.

The cover to the show at Alex's is $5. Call 541-482-8818 or see www.tenderlovingempire.com/y-la-bamba.

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