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Review: Rodrigo y Gabriela conjure classic-meets-hard rock guitar magic on '9 Dead Alive'

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Rodrigo y Gabriela, "9 Dead Alive" (ATO Records)

Wielding only acoustic guitars, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero conjure a mix of influences to create a sound that might only have been dreamed up by classical guitar great Andres Segovia, if he'd been born listening to Santana and Metallica.

On "9 Dead Alive," Rodrigo y Gabriela's first new album in five years, the duo strips down to return to the raw, ferocious energy that won them global acclaim after they were discovered busking in Ireland. Alone with their guitars, the couple indeed create a whole far greater than their two instruments.

Each of the album's nine instrumentals pays tribute to "enduring touchstones" such as writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, plus one string-bending thumper, "Torito," honouring animals and nature. On the opening track, "The Soundmaker," they bow to classical guitar godfather Antonio de Torres Jurado with a technically gorgeous piece in which Rodrigo furiously soars as Gabriela powerfully beats her guitar into a percussion piece. "Megalopolis," their haunting homage to Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, weaves Rodrigo's fragile melody through Gabriela's melancholic rhythm.

The self-produced album recorded at the couple's studio on Mexico's Pacific Coast gives space for their untouched musical expression. The mix by acclaimed rock engineer Andrew Scheps is the perfect treatment, expertly restrained to allow Rodrigo and Gabriela's magic to flourish on its own.

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