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December 2021

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Hector Anchondo
Let Loose Those Chains
VizzTone

Hector Anchondo

Omaha, Nebraska bluesman Hector Anchondo has been on the blues scene for at least the last decade, but it the 1st place finish in the solo/duo portion of the International Blues Challenge in 2020 that boosted his stock, inspiring him to record the dozen songs on his latest album, Let Loose Those Chains (VizzTone). I'll admit that this disk sat on my ever-growing pile of CDs waiting to be heard. After listening to it from start to finish, I regret not having popped it into the CD drive the day it arrived in my mailbox. It's a really, really good album.

Anchondo plays guitar and sings on all cuts, occasionally being backed by drummer Khayman Winfield and bassist Joe Corley, the latter who co-produced the album with Anchondo. He's a fine guitarist with a pleasant singing voice, and shows his songwriting chops by doing all of his own songs here. Quite frankly, there's not a weak cut to be found on Let Loose Those Chains.

The title cut opens the album, highlighted by Anchondo's fingerpicking guitar chords while Winfield bounces out a rhythmic drum beat. Switching over to electric guitar for "I'm Going To Missouri," Anchondo provides a jazzier sound on a song that reminds of Muddy's "Baby Please Come Home." Anchondo packs a lot of emotion into his vocals on the slow blues, "Just Forget It," playing both electric and acoustic guitars.

"Current River" is an up-tempo instrumental with Anchondo going back to his acoustic guitar, before adding slide licks on the Delta blues "Candy Shop," as he professes his sweet tooth but we quickly figure out that he's not really talking about candy or ice cream. Use your imagination. "Legend" is an up-tempo number on which Anchondo sounds vocally a bit like Bob Dylan, putting on his folk troubadour hat while Winfield's urgent drumming with brushes drives the song along.

The tempo slows considerably on "Sometimes Being Alone Feels Right," describing a feeling that many of us have at times. The anguish comes out in his voice as he sings powerful lines like, "...my arms are lifeless, my legs have no bones ...." Anchondo breaks up his loneliness with a nice, warm acoustic guitar solo, and he lets us know that he doesn't want to talk to anyone tonight. Powerful stuff here. The mood and tempo change completely on "Strike It Down," as Anchondo heads off to Europe for more of a gypsy jazz sound, showing his versatility on the guitar. Back with a slow, gentle number, "Vested Angels," Anchondo sings with emotion about a child who's crying and frames it with pleasant guitar picking.

Anchondo saves the best for late in the album, with "Heart And Soul" being one of my candidates for song of the year. It just hits your soul with the emotion of this heartfelt love song. Not as bluesy as other songs on the album, but it just feels so right. While it's not credited on the album, I swear I hear a faint sound of an organ in the background, never intrusive but adding just a touch of extra flavor. Since first hearing "Heart And Soul," I've been listening to this song over and over.

The mid-tempo blues, "Momma's A Hard Man," tells about a mother that had to work hard to support the family after the father left when the singer was five years old. Nice acoustic guitar picking here throughout the song.

Closing the album is a different message to that woman in "You Know I Love You But You Got To Go," as Anchondo sings that he can't just keep picking her up when she's down, saying he knows when to cut and run. More really strong acoustic work.

Let Loose Those Chains ranks as one the biggest surprises of the 2021 blues season. Hector Anchondo wasn't on my radar before this album came out, but he certainly is now. Highly recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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