Rubyworks RWXCD12

Imagine two heavy metal hard rock guitarists from Mexico playing a flamboyant acoustic set featuring numbers like Metallica's "One", "Take Five" and "Libertango". Imagine these two live on stage at two venues. Imagine the addition of two violinists at one venue. Imagine it all recorded and released on CD. That's what Live Manchester and Dublin is in a nutshell. The guitarists are Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quitero. The two started in Mexico City as guitarists in the heavy metal band Terra Acida. After a few years playing covers of other popular metal bands, they gave up and decided to go to Europe packed with an acoustic nylon-strung guitar each.

The couple wound up in Dublin and earned coin busking the popular Temple Bar and Grafton Streets in Ireland's capital. Here they stood out from the crowd with their eclectic repertoire that combines classical acoustic fare like flamenco with the unplugged rawness borrowed from the headbanging trash community.

It did not take long before the streets were upgraded for indoor venues and Rodrigo y Gabriela's names alone attracted many music lovers to their gigs. The two record every performance with a simple Mini Disc recorder. And when the opportunity arose to release a live recording that best captures the energy the duo puts into their music, one of the Mini Discs served as base.

The CD consists of two parts. The first four tracks capture a performance at the Manchester Academy. Gabriela and Rodrigo sit very close in the middle and somewhat back in the soundstage. A furious flamenco "Foc", Catalan for fire, displays their mastery of strings and interplay. It's great to hear the switches between leads that bring out each guitarist's strongest points. There are two spoken interludes where Gabriela with her girlish voice introduces the duo or as a surprise during the last track, answers some audience questions in a hilarious way.

Rodrigo and Gabriela do not shy away from covers or borrowing stylistic elements and phrases. Of the two renditions of "One", one segues seamlessly into Paul Desmond's "Take Five" while "Mr. Tan" borrows quite heavily from famous flamenco riffs and even the White Stripes, another rock band.

Part two takes place at Dublin's Christ Church and the first track from this performance is "Paris" though it could just as easy be called "Rio Ancho" as Paco de Lucia is heavy quoted. The addition of two violins lift the emotional level substantially and is a suitable factor in the following "Libertango". The last two tracks are again full of frantic energy and it is impossible to sit still while this is going on. Even though the recording quality is not the best, it does capture the heavy dose of pleasure the performers so clearly enjoy in their work. Pure fun. But take care of your volume setting as the mastering was done by someone with undoubtedly a hearing deficiency. In Cooledit, the graphs are almost off the charts for the most part though a limiter is used to avoid the most obvious clipping.