Monday, January 6, 2014

REVIEW: Leo Welch - Sabougla Voices

"I don't know what you come to do," says Leo "Bud" Welch on the opening track of this album, "but I come to praise his name." So Sabougla Voices is a gospel album, but a rollicking, hard-rocking blues gospel album that brings his Savior great honor (and probably great enjoyment). Welch, an 81-year old logging worker from Sabougla, MS, has played church music most of his life - fortunately, the large number of churches in Mississippi have created a rich gospel musical tradition that not only birthed the blues and related musics, it continued to feed a sacred strain that has had artists like Robert Randolph bubble up to national consciousness from time to time. After living his whole life in his birthplace, Welch is ready to enter our consciousness and has a topic he's proud to sing about.

Welch addresses the Saturday night/Sunday morning dichotomy that's become a truism over the years, and musically, he makes a mockery of it. His music is hard rocking and pure joy - in it, you hear echoes of fellow Mississippians Howling Wolf ("Mother Loves Her Children") and Muddy Waters ("A Long Journey"). That's not an idle comparison, or one inspired merely by geography. Welch is a truly great blues vocalist and he's assembled a terrific band here. In his words: “I believe in the Lord, but the blues speaks to life, too. Blues has a feeling just like gospel; they just don’t have a book (a Bible).” Welch continues to sing with two local gospel groups in the Bruce, Mississippi area, The Spiritualaires of Bruce, Mississippi and Leo Welch and the Sabougla Voices. You can also catch Leo hosting The Black Gospel Express TV show every 1st and 5th Sunday on WO7BN-TV in Bruce.

I know it probably sounds like a cliche - an 81-year old, undiscovered gospel blues singer, a manual laborer most of his adult life, calls the offices of Fat Possum imprint Big Legal Mess Records to ask if the label which featured Junior Kimbrough might be interested in his music. But it is very real. Welch has never released an album before Sabougla Voices, but when you listen to this thing, all you can think is, that doesn't matter. This is a wonderful record - please listen and share it with friends.

Check out the lead track, "Praise His Name":

Sabougla Voices is out this week (Jan. 7) on Big Legal Mess Records.

Leo Welch at Big Legal Mess Records

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