Rodrigo y Gabriela are great by themselves but they are even better with a band

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Welcome to the second year of this blog! This is officially the first blog post of the second year of this blog. To start the second year off with a bang we have a great album from Rodrigo y Gabriela. The latest release from this great duo is filled with everything you would expect from their previous albums but with the addition of a great band behind them and a few guest musicians. If you thought they were good by themselves wait till you hear them with a band! For those of you who don’t know who Rodrigo y Gabriela are, here is a great video of the two of them rocking out on acoustic guitars  on “Hanuman” the opening track to their second studio album 11:11 :

Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero both grew up playing music in Mexico City. They honed their chops playing in the metal band Tierra Acida but ended up leaving it and moving to Ireland. The metal influence on Rodrigo is strong and he will still get into a mean power stance when he is getting ready to shred.  In Europe they developed their current style which is a fusion of rock, latin, and gypsy guitar and formed a strong following playing in local bars. They still occasionally visit their metal past and will cover of Metallica’s “Orion” or “One”.  In 2006 they released their self-title album to much critical acclaim. They followed this up with the release of their next album 11:11 in 2009. In 2012 they released Area 52, their first album with a backing band.

Take all of the energy, talent, and excitement that was on their previous albums and add an 11 piece Cuban orchestra behind it and that is what Area 52 is all about. Rodrigo and Gabriela are still prominent on this album though the presence of the band gives them a bit of breathing room. The piano player, Alex Wilson, who also produced and directed the orchestra, does an absolute amazing job on this album. He clearly knows their music and enjoys playing it. At times it almost seems as if he is an official member of the band with how smoothly he fits into their music and all of the licks that he trades back and forth with Rodrigo. Some of the guest musicians on this album are John Tempesta (the former drummer of White Zombie, Testament, and Helmet) who guests on a few tracks and really drives the music with the addition of his hard rock drumming. Carles Benevant (Paco de Lucio) adds his flamenco bass skills to “11:11” and “Juan Loco”. Anoushka Shankar, the talented daughter of Ravi Shankar, even lends her amazing skills on sitar to a new version of “Ixtapa”. They played live at Austin City Limits with the Area 52 orchestra and from all of the video I’ve seen online it looked like a great show. Here is their live version of “Tamacun” which they use to close out Area 52:

This album is sort of a “best of” of their first two albums and doesn’t include any new music, but it does take their old material and kick it up a notch. Some people like the addition of the other musicians while some people prefer the duo by themselves. I really like the addition of the band and the guest appearances, especially Anoushka Shankar on “Ixtapa”.  My only complaint about this album is that they sound so good with a band behind them that it makes it a little difficult to go back and listen to their old albums. They just sound a little lacking and not as full as this album. That being said I still can’t wait for their next release even if they go back to being just a duo. They are currently getting ready to start a US tour this summer starting out with the West Coast and I am extremely jealous of everyone that gets to see this great duo at Jambase Live at the Gorge in Washington over the fourth of July weekend .

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