For many less bold, adventurous bands, it might seem a risk to follow a debut that received two San Diego Music Award nominations – including Best New Artist – with a set that include an exotic, soaring English/Spanish duet that takes them off their normal sonic path.
But led by sultry and seductive, sometimes monotone and whisper voiced lead vocalist, lyricist and baritone uke master Phil Beaumont, The Color Forty Nine does just that on their engaging yet mostly sparse and atmospheric EP String Ladders. And it works! Featuring guest vocalist Ruben Albarran, “What Would You Know? Yo Que Se?” – also the collection’s third single – is dynamic, lilting and lyrical entry point which reflects the band’s unique, eclectic border city roots and wider array of influences.
Even for non-Spanish speakers who can’t understand all the words, the song’s artful ability to address border issues and the human condition shine through. The provocative theme is driven home by the jumpy, black and white hand drawn stop animation on the song’s video which was created by Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Prize winning artist Hugo Crosthwaite.
The track hits us unexpectedly after the generally staid and slightly meditative title track opener, which starts with just Beaumont’s dark tinged vocals and uke before the rhythm section (bassist Jason Hooper, drummer John Meeks) kicks in and Matt Resovich’s swirling violin heightens the emotional tension and energy. After the Spanglish tune, the band takes us on a unique emotional rollercoaster, starting with the gloomy-bluesy, funereal relationship reflection “I’m Going to Try” and the pluckier, slightly more optimistic and encouraging “Fly On.”
Probably the most lighthearted, colorful tune is the spirited, Americana steeped “Another World,” which features a more emotive, rock-edged side of Beaumont’s voice awash in a fusion of plucky uke, soulful harmonica and echoing atmospheres. That atmospheric vibe also washes over the dreamy, droning, tension filled “Hold My Hand,” a pop/rock song highlighting our desperate need for connection that wraps this most eclectic, engaging set.