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Album Review: Rodrigo y Gabriela – Area 52

4 min read

Mexican musical phenomenon Rodrigo y Gabriela return this month with the lastest in an ever expanding catalogue of well crafted and splendourous releases with the spicey package that is Area 52, the duo’s third studio album which sees its release on Monday 23rd January.

RodrigoYGabriellaCubaDiscovered on the streets of Ireland while making a living as a busy touring team on the live circuit throughout the countries many pubs and bars they quickly gained themselves a cult following as well as a record label backing to help bring the band into the international spotlight. Known equally for their astounding musical versions of some of the industry’s most treasured and sacred compositions as well as their own self penned material Rodrigo y Gabriela have achieved an astonishing amount of success over the past 6 years since the pairs 2006 self titled release which propelled itself to the top spot in the charts that year.

The duo have steadily gained themselves a very acclaimed reputation thanks to their signature, quick paced and rhythmic guitar playing style that has left many a dropped jaw for those experiencing their first live Rodrigo y Gabriela performance. From sell out tours, impressive festival performances, groundbreaking records, working with legendary film composer Hans Zimmer and performing for the likes of US President Barack Obama there is little Rodrigo y Gabriela haven’t achieved. The clonks in the duo’s musical machine still keep churning however and with that comes the bands latest record.

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s last studio release came together in the form of 2009’s 11:11 which featured among many highlight numbers Master Macqui and Buster Voodoo. With Area 52 the duo take a wider approach to the track-listing and present a superb 9 tracks of Cuban meets Mexican acoustic wonder beginning with the gorgeous Santo Domingo which shows off the craft that the pair have become famous the world over for mastering. Pace is what this track is all about and combine that with a big band backdrop that swings easily from uptempo to smooth and seducing the track offers everything that we love about this duo in a single track as it flirts its way through an impressive 6 minutes.

As quick as Santo Domingo ends Hanuman begins and we are off once again with a truly inspirational number combining the talents of not only Rodrigo y Gabriela as they offer up some astounding rhythms that sound absolutely breathtaking but also their impressive backing band that the pair rounded up for the recording of Area 52. From the first strum you have yourself here one hell of a track.

Thought Area 52 is the bands latest studio record the tracks contained within the album aren’t new numbers for the duo, instead they are a collection of the pairs most well known and treasured hits taken from previous studio records as well a favorites reworked in Cuba with the support of some outstanding Cuban musicians including members of Cuban rock band Los Van Van who add a different quality and versatility to the existing works of Rodrigo y Gabriela and help give the track-listing a wider, more epic feel as they play a variety of Cuban instruments alongside the featured duo.

11:11 is a more laid back affair on the record with a gentle percussion and Americana twang to the track as we are taken through nearing eight minutes of musical beauty before a further big band inspired reworking of Master Maqui takes the reigns and shows off the skills that have solidified Rodrigo y Gabriela’s names into music history.

All of the tracks that are featured on Area 52 have been given an entirely new angle with many featuring the backing of horn sections and it’s great to hear the tracks in the way that they have been offered on this new outing.

With the band preparing to take the record out on the road throughout Europe in February and March before heading to the US for two months of shows Rodrigo y Gabriela have hit the nail right on the head with Area 52 and over the course of 90 minutes they offer us another impressive gem in the catalogue of an increasingly popular and critically acclaimed duo who have set the benchmark of musicianship and craft just that extra bit higher.