Diego García’s El Twanguero is a fire-breathing guitar hero

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Diego García picked up a Latin Grammy for best tango album last week, which might come as a surprise to those aware that the annual awards show is held every November.

Reached by Skype while driving north on the I-5 after collecting the coveted statuette, he offers a reasonable explanation.

“We were touring, so I couldn’t attend the ceremony,” says the easygoing guitarist. “They said, ‘Okay, we will send it to Spain,’ but they never did that. So as I was touring California, I decided to pass through Santa Monica and pick it up.”

García’s Grammy honours his contributions, as producer and guitarist, to the charismatic flamenco singer Diego El Cigala’s Romance de la Luna Tucumana, a boundary-pushing fusion of traditional Andalusian music, tango, and rock. But the road trip he’s on now finds him travelling as his alter ego, El Twanguero—a fire-breathing guitar hero whose work brings to mind the best of Chet Atkins, Les Paul, and Danny Gatton. Rather than court the retro set, however, the 36-year-old musician flavours his own rock-infused energy with liberal lashings of garlic and chorizo to arrive at a sound that is exciting, eclectic, and entirely his own.

“I understand flamenco and Spanish music, but it’s hard to do it with electric guitar,” the Valencia-born García explains. “Spanish audiences don’t want to listen to a guy playing this with the electric sound. So it’s my fight. I play with a real Spanish heart, but I am not a flamenco player. I am an electric player who plays Spanish music, which is very weird. I think I am the only one in the world who plays that kind of Latin thing—except for Manuel Galbán, who died 10 years ago. He recorded with Ry Cooder; they did an album called Mambo Sinuendo. So he was the first Latino twang in history.”

García cites Hank Marvin and Duane Eddy as early influences, which isn’t surprising. “Hank Marvin could sing with his guitar and Duane Eddy could sing with his guitar,” he notes. “For me, that’s important.” But he also admits to a fondness for Allan Holdsworth and Bill Frisell, which means that he’s got the same kind of stylistic range as Canada’s own king of twang, erstwhile metalhead Paul Pigat. Substitute maple syrup for aceite de oliva, in fact, and Cousin Harley’s frontman bears an eerie sonic resemblance to García, something the two discovered at Mexico’s Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival last year.

“I was warming up backstage, playing a Jerry Reed song, and Paul came running over and said, ‘Hey, man, where do you come from? You want to play together?’ ” García recalls. “My intention was to play solo, but that night we went to have some beer and we said, ‘Okay, let’s do the whole festival as a duo.’ So we did.”

Christening themselves the Guitar Twins, the two have since recorded an as-yet-unreleased duo album, and are looking forward to their upcoming Vancouver show with the ultra-hot rhythm section of bassist Tommy Babin and drummer Barry Mirochnick.

“I’ve found my guitar twin,” García says of Pigat. “He’s like my North American brother. And he’s an amazing guitarist too, so it’s a really nice bromance.”

The Guitar Twins play the Paul Pigat Guitar Cabaret at the WISE Hall on Friday (July 4).

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