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Rodrigo y Gabriela will be supporting Will Young on his fourthcoming 22 date, Sold Out UK tour. Especially requsted by Will Young himself, this tour can only enhance the rapidly building profile of this excellent duo. Rodrigo y Gabriela arrived in Ireland from Mexico a couple of years ago and have since then built up a huge following bowling audiences over with their virtuoso guitar playing. On their debut album "Re-Foc" they are joined by a host of musicians including Zoe Conway on fiddle, Johnny Daly on double bass and Robbie Harris on percussion. Together they play a lively blend of jazz, world and folk.
To the unattuned ear, flamenco can seem jarring, discordant and depressing, an unnerving combination of guitar in staccato mode and voices given over to sudden spasms of passion.
As an upbeat, ultra-accessible alternative, Rodrigo and Gabriela play a melodious riff-based sound influenced by the lamentations of southern Spain but not restricted to - or really rooted in - them. Instead, they aim to entertain, delight and make feet tap. Like the music of virtuoso guitar giants José Feliciano and Paco de Lucia, this is picking for performance, with some impressive, impossibly fast fretwork and lots of mutual, competitive emoting. Their live show went down a storm at WOMAD this year and the hooks are as addictive as they are seductive -R&G appeal way beyond the usual World Music specialist circuit.
The Mexican-born duo has settled in Ireland, and enjoys there a faithful following as 'exotic' expat Latinos. A couple of tracks pay tribute to their new homeland and there's a Celtic bodhran on "Georges St/The Tartar Frigate", but most of the backing comes from bongo, shakers and cajón. It is neat and natty and all gels together seamlessly to the point of slickness.
But 'foc' is Catalan for fire (just to throw in another culture) and this album is more a home to gently heated numbers. It even manages to include the classic Paul Desmond jazz standard "Take 5"in order, perhaps, to please all. Evocative as it all is, it feels a bit like an Andalucian-tinted postcard and those accustomed to more searching sounds will be left wanting. There can, though, be no doubting the promise of this duo, and the Irish-Hispanic mix could be a heady source of future experiments - and no doubt some hits. --Chris Moss
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Re-Foc was originally released all the way back in 2002 through Rubyworks Records. The album was essentially a re-recording of the bands demo's, previously released on a nine track demo titled Foc. It is a nice example of the bands sound before it fully developed, showing a lot of creativity and skill.
I can understand if listening to Spanish acoustic guitar music is not your thing or even if you've heard it before. But when a band like Rodrigo y Gabriela records something like this, I urge you to pay attention. Not only is the playing on acoustic guitar skillfully done, but the way they utilise the percussion on the body of the guitar is extremely clever. It makes a simple but very full and mesmerising sound.
If anything, rock fans will find their use of lead guitar quite interesting. Rodrigo Sánchez plays a mean lead, but he also incorporates a lot of his influences and anyone with a knowledge of rock and metal can hear that. For example, on the track Take Five there is a jam of the last section of Metallica's One. Not only is it played perfectly, but it sounds just as powerful as the original. It features an excellent solo and the percussion does an awfully good job of keeping the beat going. Saying that, the same could be said for tracks like New One, Diem and 30 de Marzo.
The one let down this album has is the production and final mix. The bands instruments sound very quiet and you lose a bit of the detail that's is being played. With that said, it doesn't sound bad at all. In fact, the recording itself is quite smooth and is quite crankable. It is simply not clear enough to get all of the percussive sounds out in full force, like later albums.
Re-Foc is far from the groups best album. That honour goes to the groups second self titled record or 11:11. But I would definitely say it is worth picking up.