Jul 21, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
San Diego’s The Color Forty Nine make music evoking open expanses of sky and desert twilights, mixing gothic Americana with Latin music traditions and the ambling souls of folk troubadours. They first introduced this distinctive blend with their 2018 self-titled EP and the band used lockdown as a chance to record two new EP’s worth of material, the first of which, String Ladders, is out July 23rd is coming later this year. Now the band has shared one of the singles from the upcoming release, “What Would I Know? – Yo que sé?,” featuring Café Tacvba vocalist, Rubén Albarrán.
The themes of “What Would I Know? – Yo que sé?” aim high, reflecting on the pain of discrimination and injustice wrought by man-made borders. It’s a fitting focus for a band that’s already shown such a deep commitment to mixing cultural and musical influences with no regard to borders.
Against the swaying instrumental and plaintive Latin brass melodies, the band crafts a bilingual call for empathy and compassion, a stirring tune animated by the stories of millions of families who have lived the pain in the song’s lyrics. The band sings in English, “Look at the lines in a face/All eyes can bring tears/All eyes can break fears/We are one and all” before being answered by Albarrán in Spanish—”Wipe out the lines that we made/How can I cross a border when you can’t come north?/This is not a fair game.”
The band says of the track, “This whole process of writing this song seemed to fulfill its own prophecy. We have these obstacles that have been created such as borders and discrimination, and if you can simply break those down then wonderful things can occur. Simply putting out the idea of collaboration to the right folks led us to working with an icon of music in Latin America, Rubén Albarrán, from Cafe Tacvba, and Hugo Crosthwaite, artist, and winner of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Prize. The song seemed to speak to them enough to dedicate, in Hugo’s case, 3 months to hand drawing an incredible animated video. What better reward can you have for reaching out and crossing borders?”
Check out the song and video below, and watch for The Color Forty Nine’s String Ladders EP, out July 23rd.