Let Loose Those Chains
Every so often a wonderful surprise comes along, and this is one of them. Let Loose Those Chains is one of the most finely crafted, song driven blues releases of this year. Hector Anchondo is the 2020 IBC winner in the solo/duo category, and this is his first acoustic album. These dozen originals represent some of his favorite personal songs from his past twenty years of writing. Anchondo, a native of Nebraska, is living testimony to the baseball convention that it takes three strikes for an out. His third IBC attempt finally brought success after two previous strong showings. Not only that, but he also won the Memphis Cigar Box Guitar Award, honoring the best guitarist in contention.
After fronting bands on Kicking Up Dust (2012), Young Guns (2014), and Roll The Dice (2017), and while continuing to program the festival “In The Market For Blues” every year in his home city of Omaha, this recording may be the launching pad for Anchondo’s promising career. One can tell he took his blues lessons for a year in Chicago seriously and that he draws even more from roots-oriented bluesmen like ‘Keb ‘Mo and Taj Mahal. There’s just a bit of John Lee Hooker in here too. Even with his various reference points, he sounds both distinctively fresh and versatile. The twelve originals that he offers testify to a fine mastery of both blues and roots idioms. Anchondo doesn’t go it alone but gets subtle and sturdy support from co-producer Joe Corley’s bass and Khayman Winfield’s drumming.
The title track kicks off, revealing a soulful voice above simple, front porch-like riffs in a song that could in another era, be a chant for field workers. The punchy shuffle “I’m Going To Missouri” conjures ‘Keb Mo’ is exemplary of Anchondo’s confident guitar style, just enough notes for the breaks in service to the song rather than attempting to dazzle even though he’s plenty capable of that too. You hear more of his melodic sense with the instrumental “Current River – In Memory Of Libby” and the rhythmic “Legend,” both echoing strains of JJ Cale, and the latter some Caribbean flourish as well. He even displays a gypsy jazz flair on “Strike It Down.” “Just Forget It” is one of a few soul ballads that showcase his stellar vocals. “Sometimes Being Alone Feels Right” and “Heart And Soul” are in the same vein with moments where he reaches that sweet spot of Sam Cooke.
“Candy Shop” and to the infectious “You Know I Love You But You Got To Go” evoke one of the most memorable acoustic blues albums this writer heard, the now iconic The Natch’l Blues from Taj Mahal. as “Momma’s A Hard Man” evokes John Lee Hooker and even roots artists like John Hiatt and Jeff Buckley. Speaking of roots, “Vested Angels” is as good as any Americana song heard this year.
With my vote, Anchondo will go from a 2020 IBC winner to at least a BMA nomination, if not a win for Acoustic Blues Album. It’s already a huge winner for this writer.
- Jim Hynes
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