Hector Anchondo – Let Loose Those Chains | Album Review

Hector Anchondo – Let Loose Those Chains

VizzTone Label Group VT-HA-01

12 songs – 50 minutes


Hector Anchondo was living the dream in 2020. Not only did he win the solo/duo competition and the Memphis Cigar Box Award for top guitarist at the International Blues Challenge, but he also appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas and the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, too. And even the COVID-19 shutdown hasn’t stopped him from fulfilling another dream: recording this all-original acoustic CD.

The road to stardom has been a long one for Hector, a native of Omaha, Neb., who’s spent the past 25 years or so on the road. Influenced by John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’ and the Allman Brothers, he started out in blues-rock in the ‘90s, fronting his own band, Anchondo, and releasing two CDs, Rookies of the Year and The Audience Is Waiting. But the more he played, the more he worked true blues into his act – something that didn’t sit well with his established fan base.

Leaving the band behind, Anchondo relocated to Chicago for a year and immersed himself in the old-school, Windy City tradition. Whether fronting a band or working solo, he’s remained grounded in the blues ever since, releasing three CDs in the past decade — Kickin’ Up Dust, Young Guns and Roll the Dice – and becoming a fixture on the Midwest blues circuit. His self-named band made two prior trips to the IBCs, making it to the semi-finals in 2015 and the finals a year later, before he captured top honors on his own.

Containing the favorite tunes Hector’s during the past 20 years, this CD delivers intimate insights into love won and lost as well as the everyday struggle of living in the modern world. Recorded in Crystal Lake, Ill., and Bradenton, Fla., he’s backed by drummer Khayman Winfield and Joe Corley, the bassist who co-produced and mixed the set at his own Pint Size Studio.

Anchondo opens with “Let Loose Those Chains,” an unhurried, percussive blues drawn from the cotton fields, advises he’s got the strength to move mountains, but wants to do it as a free man. His tenor voice shines as his fingerpick attack on the six-string and simple rhythm drive the song forward. The tempo quicks with the pleasing “I’m Going to Missouri,” which features interplay between the lyrics and single-note guitar runs that celebrate an impending return home to party on the farm and it the cedar grove.

Things become serious again for “Just Forget It,” a languorous ballad which deals with a potential laundry list  finds Anchondo looking to let go of troubles making the singer feel “weak and pathetic” – even though, he insists, he’s “happy all the time.” The airy instrumental, “Current River,” offers some respite before flowing into the love song, “Candy Shop,” and celebrates his “sweet tooth” – a woman who’s as refreshing as “ice cream in mid-July.”

Driven by a railroad drumbeat, Anchondo questions what a person has to do to achieve fame in “Legend” while noting that he’s “only one man and there’s so much to do” and speculating about what he’ll have to do to feel whole. Another ballad, “Sometimes Being Alone Feels Right,” follows before things percolate again with “Strike It Down,” a Latin-flavored blues with gypsy overtones in which Hector describes always feeling fearful, but insisting he never allows it to get in his way.

Another interesting ballad, “Vested Angels,” opens with images of the wind carrying the sounds of broken hearts and families falling apart and flowing water leading to the source — a child’s tears. Fortunately, however, he’s surrounded by the spirits of the title who ease his pain. Three more clever numbers — “Heart and Soul,” a long song that recounts a first meeting with the lady, and “Momma’s a Hard Man,” another fingerpick fiesta that honors a matriarch who rises up after the death of her husband, and “You Know I Love You but You Got to Go,” a song of parting delivered atop a honeyed melody — bring the disc to a close.

Hector Anchondo bares his soul on this one, spanning sorrow and joy with sensitivity and without ever being dark or overpowering. If you’re a fan of quality songwriting – and fretwork, too, Let Loose Those Chains is right up your alley.

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