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Spotlight

Rodrigo y Gabriela

By Phil Freeman
Published March 13, 2007
MEXICO

They escaped the Mexican thrash-metal scene, acoustic guitars in hand, and trekked to Dublin, of all places, where their blazing fretboard technique dazzled the locals and scored them a deal with the indie label Rubyworks. Their self-released Foc was reissued as Re-Foc in 2002; this was followed by Live Manchester And Dublin, and now the self-titled third album, a concise masterpiece (nine tracks, 43 minutes) of strumming, slapping and soloing like nothing else in the worlds of folk, jazz or even flamenco.

Rodrigo y Gabriela insist they’re not flamenco players, but their work contains elements of Latin and Spanish guitar music. Gabriela keeps the rhythm rock-steady, strumming and occasionally slapping the body of the guitar as loudly as any drummer, while Rodrigo plays arpeggiated lead lines that seem as fast as Yngwie Malmsteen or any other ’80s metal shredder. The disc has moments of subtle interplay, like the delicate, almost Pink Floyd-esque intro to “Satori,” or their take on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” but both cuts erupt into wild, cathartic duels long before their conclusions.

The Zep cover isn’t the only homage they pay to their metal past, either—the pair also tackles Metallica’s “Orion,” a slow-burning instrumental from the Master Of Puppets disc. Rodrigo y Gabriela have yet to make their U.S. performance debut, but based on the rapturous response they’ve generated in the U.K. and Europe, it can only be a matter of time until they’re blowing American audiences away with their furious strumming and picking.

In the meantime, the Rodrigo y Gabriela CD comes packaged with a DVD (PAL format) featuring live performance footage, interviews with the pair, and a guitar tutorial. Who says you need amps to rock the walls down?