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Rodrigo Y Gabriela


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  • While Rodrigo y Gabriela's self-titled third album is an utter and complete joy to listen to -- actually, it's more of a riotous celebration -- it's more than difficult to describe exactly what they do. This Mexican guitar duo met while in a heavy metal outfit together and soon found the local scene wanting. Both had roots in flamenco and other folk and rock music; they dropped the electric guitars -- and bandmates -- to travel light. They headed off to Europe, and ended up busking in Ireland, where their renown spread as instrumentalists who had to be seen to be believed. They re-recorded an album, toured the U.K. with everyone from David Gray to the Buena Vista Social Club, and then cut a live disc in Dublin and Manchester. That was the story until they hooked up with producer John Leckie. He was able to help them record a studio album that captured the sheer orgiastic excitement of their live gigs, hence this self-titled puppy that debuted in the Irish charts at number one. Uh-huh. It's true that Ireland's not a big place, but when, when, have you ever heard of an instrumental recording by a Mexican duo hitting the number one spot in such a place? What's more, the disc has a buzz on Yank shores as well and with good reason. These nine cuts have nothing to do with nuevo flamenco or any of that new agey stuff: this is smoke and fire music, it burns across genres and traditions like a demented passion spirit that takes no prisoners -- and we can thank the gods for heavy metal in this instance at least. This set slashes like a stiletto; it's fine and precise; it leaves no scars. The dynamic range of this music is startling. It is both ancient and futuristic, carnally frenetic and romantically seductive, artfully -- and even spiritually -- played yet drenched in the vulgarity of street life. It is the work of two young masters who are still striving to learn and incorporate more without sacrificing beauty, pathos, and tradition. On "Ixtapa" they utilize rock & roll dynamics to perform a song about the place they decided to flee from Mexico City to before leaving for Europe. Roby Lakatos, the incredible violinist, joins the duo here (he's a fan and offered his services). Take in "Diablo Rojo," or "Satori," where metal chops, flamenco, and tango music become entwined in a musical mnage trois. There are no gimmicks in this music, it's exactly what you hear in the immediate present that somehow comes out of the Latin historical past, is infected by rock & roll and forwards the secret histories of both. Informed by this, listen closely to the pair's covers of Metallica's "Orion" and, more importantly, the song that would be easiest to dismiss -- a reading of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" that takes the appropriate liberties and makes them both sound fresh and new. In encountering this record, all doubt and cynicism should removed; what is happening here is that the canon for the acoustic, classical guitar is being rewritten. This music is the sound of passion as interpreted by and spoken for in a new rock & roll language. [To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Rodrigo y Gabriela's release, a remastered Deluxe Edition of the album was issued in 2017. The two-CD version added the previously unreleased bonus tracks "Senorita XXX" and "Amuleto" to the first disc, while the second CD featured a previously unreleased live concert recorded in 2006 at Dublin's Olympia Theatre.] ~ Thom Jurek
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