This Friday Mexican norteño legends Los Tigres del Norte release “La Prisión de Folsom (Folsom Prison Blues),” the lead single and video from the band’s upcoming Netflix Original Documentary, Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison, along with a soundtrack album of the same name. Both are due out in September, in honor of Hispanic Heritage month.
Johnny Cash aficionados will recall his 1968 album, At Folsom Prison, and its landmark opening song, “Folsom Prison Blues.” Fifty years later, Johnny Cash’s classic would get its first-ever Spanish-language (and accordion) treatment by Los Tigres del Norte. The song was recorded live in the same prison made famous by Cash, which has notably seen demographic shifts in the past five decades: Latinxs now comprise 43% of California’s overall prison population. In their upcoming documentary, directed by Tom Donahue, Los Tigres hope to illuminate the unique experiences of those who are Latinx and incarcerated, through a series of emotional interviews with inmates. As teased in the new video, the doc also sees the rockeros play two separate concerts, captivating crowds of men and women in their respective wards.
“Johnny Cash — his music and his humanity — is the inspiration for our new documentary and album,” wrote Los Tigres in a press release. “Like us, he sings about the lost, the forgotten, and the powerless. Like us, he traveled to Folsom Prison to bring hope with his music. Like us, he wanted to shine a light on issues of incarceration, which is especially important to our community now.”
The song was modified with the support of John Carter Cash, son of Johnny, and written in collaboration with Ana Cristina Cash, Johnny’s daughter-in-law. “It was such a blessing to be able to support Los Tigres del Norte in this project,” wrote the couple in a statement.
“For Ana Cristina, a multi-lingual songwriter who learned Spanish as her first language, collaborating with this legendary band on the translation of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ was a particular honor. We’re both thrilled that the translation will reach new listeners and merge the two worlds of country and Latin music, while preserving the integrity and message of the original song. For us, and for Johnny Cash, music has no boundaries.”
Of the many artists who’ve sought permission to record at Folsom Prison — more so for the 50th Anniversary of Johnny Cash’s performance — Los Tigres del Norte was the only act authorized by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In fact, Los Tigres are the only band to record an album at Folsom since Cash released his 1968 opus. The new album was both recorded and produced by the two-time Oscar winning composer and eighteen-time Latin Grammy winner Gustavo Santaolalla, and his long-time producing partner Anibal Kerpel.
Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison is due for release this September via Fonovisa/Universal.