'There can, though, be no doubting the promise of this duo, and the Irish-Hispanic mix...
Chris Moss 2003
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.