Rodrigo y Gabriela is the self-titled breakthrough album of Mexican guitarists Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero. Their music is purely instrumental, but the two raging acoustic guitars — Rodrigo on lead guitar and Gabriela on rhythm guitar — provide a very full and exciting sound. Again, we’re talking about a group whose music is very hard to define: although Rodrigo y Gabriela’s biggest passion is heavy metal music, their songs are a mingling of flamenco chords and Latin melodies.
R & G are traveling artists: they're from Mexico City, but to increase their chances of breaking through they moved to Europe, first to Dublin, Ireland, then to Copenhagen in Denmark. The breakthrough came in 2005, when folk rocker Damien Rice asked them to support him on his tour. This album was produced by John Leckie (producer of Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, Muse…) and every song on it was recorded live.
Having lived in Sevilla (Andalucía, España) for half a year, I acquired a taste for flamenco, so Rodrigo y Gabriela immediately drew my attention. Unlike many flamenquito artists, they manage to do their very own thing with flamenco, without ever sounding cheesy. More than once, they reminded me of the good old Gypsy Kings (because of the high tempo and the fusion sound), or even Gotan Project (but without the vocals).
The album’s opening track “Tamacún” shows us what to expect: fast, fiery guitar music that will sometimes make you want to dance, and will sometimes move you. “Diablo Rojo” and “Vikingman” are two songs inspired by the artists' staying in Denmark. "Diablo Rojo" refers to a roller coaster named "Red Devil" (here's an impressive video of R & G performing that song on the David Letterman show). “Vikingman” is about a homeless friend of Rodrigo and Gabriela back in Copenhagen – the melody reminded me of the Godfather theme! The original percussion methods and guitar picking in “Satori” show the virtuosity of these guitarists. “Ixtapa” is a musical painting of the very beautiful town in Mexico of the same name, the violins you hear by famous gypsy violinist Roby Lagatos: they make this song the most beautiful one on the album.
In the next two songs, “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Orion” we get to know Rodrigo and Gabriela’s past in heavy metal: they bring their own rework of their favourite songs by Led Zeppelin and Metallica. “Juan Loco” is actually Rod and Gab’s word of thanks to producer John Leckie ("Mad John"), and “PPA”, the last song, is a calm song that closes the album with a thrilling finale.
Alright kids, what did we learn today? That Rodrigo y Gabriela certainly deserve your attention, although the album may sound a bit monotonous at first hearing because of its lack of vocals. If they could invite some guests for the next album (like a good flamenco cantaor), things would get really interesting… Anyway, listening to the virtuosity of these musicians is a fantastic experience I would like to share with all of you, so take a listen to Ixtapa, and support Rod y Gab on tour or by buying the album. They deserve it!