Leo “Bud” Welch

Sabougla Voices
Leo “Bud” Welch

Leo WelchIn this day and age, it’s downright incredible that 81-year-old Mississippi bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch has remained unknown to the broader musical world. Unknown – until now, that is.

Welch was born in 1932 in Sabougla, a crossroads burg in central Mississippi that’s so small most maps can’t find it. Welch has called the area home for his entire life.

And throughout that life he’s played music – fiddle, harmonica, and guitar, among other instruments. Perhaps due to his home away from the Delta proper, his fretting style owes more to R.L. Burnside or Junior Kimbrough than to Son House or Robert Johnson.

But Welch would agree with House that a musician has to decide between the church and the blues. Welch chose to play his guitar in the service of the Lord, and while this album rocks with loud electric guitar and blues licks, it’s a gospel album through and through.

Opening track “Praise His Name” is typical, with Welch picking a rocking riff and then echoing the religious lyrics with his overdriven leads. “I come to sing my song,” he testifies, “I come to praise His name.”

Like the sacred steel tradition or House’s own religious songs, Welch’s music rides on powerful guitar. Tunes like “Praying Time” and “His Holy Name” celebrate the Lord with raucous boogies, fuzzed-out solo lines, and plenty of deep, soulful reverb.

If you’re into the blues, gospel, or the legacy of guitar music, this album marks history.

This article originally appeared in VG April 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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