Album Cover via True Panther Records
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Donna-Claire is drinking whisky, pondering Book 3, and pacing by candlelight.
Part of me wanted to start this piece with a phonetic breakdown of the word corrido. Like something you’d find in a dictionary entry—except that would be both lame and patronizing. In essence, these are poetic ballads of street life in Latin America. When you listen to corridos, it’s easy to picture a group of highly emotive folks singing from the gut about their travels and travails. The nylon guitars ping right into your heart. You don’t need to speak Spanish to understand what’s being communicated. Corridos are built upon the universal language of sharing a bleeding heart.
In recent years in North America, this regional style of music has increased in popularity and general awareness, thanks to Bad Bunny co-signs and the meteoric rise of Peso Pluma. Of course, this romantic and mournful music has always been huge. Mariachi bands have been in American pop culture consciousness since long before Herb Alpert. Regional Mexican music—which may need a new name as the umbrella term feels a little too broad—has a special place in my heart. It’s the music my father-in-law played in the car while driving my wife and her sister to softball practice. He was the coach. He drives stick to this day, the same stack of CDs piled into the central console of a zippy little coupe.
Of the new crop of artists diving into the post-globalization Mexican music, Cash Bently stands out as an experimental practitioner of corridos. Born in Long Island, the artist of Guatemalan and El Salvadoran descent was raised in Virginia, in a community with strong ties to Mexican culture. His family’s band played cumbia and religious music, touring all over Central America until divorce fractured the group and pushed Bently away from music until the 2010s, when he discovered plugg beats. The internet-native’s answer to modern Southern trap music, plugg productions from Bently landed on records from pillars of the 2010s Soundcloud movement: Autumn!, Summrs, 909Memphis, and others.
As my family’s saying goes, you never really leave your sandbox. Heritage is inextricable from art and with a move in 2020 to LA and a retreat to his bedroom, Bently rediscovered his love of corridos. Making music with his siblings and playing for years with the family band laid an inescapable foundation for Bently, who remarks on the full-circle moment of returning to corridos with a sense of pride. Few people “make it out” from his community unless they starch a suit and sell out to the man. For Cash Bently, returning to the music of his childhood is a means of putting on for his culture, and making success on his terms.
And so here we are, gathered around the hearth of his debut album, Cash Corridos 3, which is the fully realized sound of Bently’s past and future, coalescing into 12 affecting songs about heartbreak and toxicity. Beyond the familial lineage of cumbia, much of Bently’s musical know-how comes from studying the work of legendary regional Mexican singer-songwriter Ariel Camacho. When Bently and I connected, he expressed deep gratitude to Camacho’s work, wishing he could show the late artist his debut album as a tribute to his musical contributions. And so the trumpets and 12-string guitars combined with Bently’s touching voice make Cash Corridos 3 a work of endearing and passionate sentimentality.
Cash Corridos 3 bubbles with the heart-sinking songwriting you’d expect from a Frank Ocean obsessive. Almost every song reveals Bently to be a complicated lothario hoping to change, but feeling incapable. On the forlorn “Besos,” Bently croons “Mi amor” with vocals dissolving into a puddle of woe. The inflections of guitar and general purpose melancholy give the song a full-bodied, nearly emo structure. But instead of standard male debasement that colors American emo, Bently siphons something more globally accessible from an air of hurt. He sounds on the verge of tears, and leaves the listener in similar sorrow.
When I got the advance of the record, I played the album for my wife right away. At the onset of “Loco Sin Ti,” the big single driving this album’s release, she closed her eyes and told me she’s back in the backseat of her dad’s decaying Honda. Her father, Eric, frequently shares stories of his time in Mexico, sleeping in a hammock outside, feeding chickens in the yard, and falling deeply in love with baseball thanks to his own father, who we affectionately referred to as Pappy until he passed. Eric grew up in Mérida, Yucatán with his brother and parents before immigrating to the US. Immigration botched the paperwork—he has two birthdays now, and is over 120 years old. That’s a lot of years spent loving Mexican music. Eric taught my wife to love regional Mexican music, and how to pitch like a pro at softball. With that, Cash Corridos 3 unlocks a well of memories.
This year, I’ve spent more time building a communal music taste with my wife than ever before. We cook to Karol G, we dance to Del Water Gap, and we reminisce to Cash Bently. As my relationship to music changes the older I get, I’m finding that the art of sharing is more important than having the “right” take or the “best” taste. I’m more invested in making memories and reliving old ones with the people I adore than proving a point about the quality of my ear. And so, it makes sense that we connect to corridos, a genre of giving. Cash Bently’s album is the closest thing to generous bloodletting I’ve heard in ages. There is an urgency to these songs, a dire need to express every shortcoming and emotional triumph. Cash Corridos 3 captures the essence of human experience – a record for anyone with a beating heart and passing interest in the growing tapestry of regional Mexican music.