Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11 (ATO Records, 2009)

Originally from Mexico but currently based in Dublin, Ireland, Rodrigo y Gabriela bring a uniquely eclectic approach to dueling acoustic guitars. Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero first played together in a thrash metal band in Mexico City, but their style owes as much to flamenco and Mexican folk music as it does to rock and roll. On their most recent CD 11:11, they pay tribute to a a diverse assortment of their musical heroes, often with outstanding results.

Rodrigo y Gabriela dedicate each track on 11:11 to a particular performer or group that has influenced their sound. The beneficiaries range from well-known rock performers like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, to flamenco guitar legend Paco de Lucia, to Palestinian oud combo Le Trio Joubran, to the world/jazz/Indian fusion group Shakti. The mixture of rock and world influences may seem unusual or unwieldy at first, but the duo make it work with a great combination of energy and chemistry. Rodrigo plays most of the melodies, while Gabriela's wonderfully percussive rhythm guitar is the dynamo that propels the arrangements. The overall sound is hard to describe simply; the best I can come up with is a two-guitar thrash flamenco symphony, but I don't know if that is even adequate. With only occasional percussive accompaniment and a memorable cameo by Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick on "Atman", Rodrigo y Gabriela create an upbeat and infectious sound while playing with a combination of aggression, sophistication, and dynamic interplay that puts the guitarists of most rock bands, even the heavy ones, completely to shame.

doesn't waste a track. Every tune is fun, lively, and superbly played. I can't really single out any piece in particular; they're inspired by different performers and may appeal to different people in different degrees, but they're all good. Fans of flamenco will certainly like the album, and people looking for good guitar music without being too style-specific will absolutely love this. Rodrigo y Gabriela have gradually built up a following over the past decade (11:11 is their sixth album), and their recent contributions to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides can only help boost their exposure to mainstream audiences. In an ideal world, though, they'd already be mega-stars.

Overall grade: A

reviewed by Scott

"Hanuman," the opening track off 11:11

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