Hector Anchondo is on a roll. After an International Blues Challenge finalist spot in 2016 and the release of the chart-topping album Roll the Dice in 2017, Anchondo is celebrating new awards and successes in 2018, and is anticipating both a new album and a new baby by the end of the year.
February brought a prestigious Omaha Arts and Entertainment Award for Best Blues act; his fourth in five years. The blues festival he started four years ago, In the Market for Blues, grew this year to include 28 bands in eight venues in Omaha's Old Market district.
And following up on a busy summer tour, he is headed to the studio to make another album this fall-when he is also expecting his second child.
The new all-original album, he says, will be a continuation of the fun-loving, hard-driving blues that made Roll the Dice so successful, but will show off more of his blues rock song-writing skills and may include an acoustic cut that will reflect the work he does as a solo artist when not working with his full ensemble.
The new album, and the successes of the recent years, are the hard-won rewards of many years of devotion to his craft. While other guys his age were going to college, getting married, buying homes, and building professional careers, Hector was playing guitar. He lived on the road, and when he wasn't on the road, he lived on couches. He got jobs as he needed them, but quit as soon as he could get back on tour. He put off having kids. He put off marriage. Instead, he played guitar.
His guitar playing became a thing of legend in the Omaha area, where he was based. But as much as he was beloved by his thousands of fans in the Heartland, he remained largely unknown to the rest of the world. Growing up on a Missouri farm, Anchondo picked up guitar as a teen, soaking up roots music, Latino music, bluegrass and old blues. As soon as he finished high school, he headed for Omaha to start a career in music.
The young guitarist started hitting jam nights every week, where older musicians recognized his prodigious talent and took him under their wings. Within only a couple years, he had a hot original Latin and reggae band and a song on local radio. Anchondo toured with that band almost non-stop for the next 10 years.
When the recession of 2008 happened, work dried up in the music scene. Anchondo realized it was an opportunity to do something that had been pulling at him for years. He wanted to play blues, full time.
When you put your mind to doing the thing you were born to do, the universe helps. Anchondo got an unexpected call from an old friend in St. Louis who had a record label, and who wanted to help him make a blues album.
The album did well; he did another two years later. Omaha embraced Anchondo's new direction and sent him to the International Blues Challenge twice. In 2015 he made the semifinals; In 2016 he made the final nine.
Anchondo's 2017 album Roll the Dice immediately made major waves on blues charts and blue radio worldwide, hitting the top 25 on the Living Blues chart and spending many weeks on the Roots Music Report blues and blues rock charts. Critics fell over themselves to heap the album with praise, calling it "fabulous," "inventive," "magnificent," and "absolutely beautiful."
With the new album on the way and his tour base constantly growing, new audiences all over the world will get a chance to experience the smooth smoky voice that can make you smile even as tears fill your eyes, the audacious grooves of his powerful band, and the lyrical mastery of Anchondo's guitar, telling the story of a life lived for the love of music.