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Leo Welch

Sabougla Voices

(Big Legal Mess; US: 7 Jan 2014; UK: 7 Jan 2012)

Gritty Blues For God

Leo Welch plays straight-up, unadorned, guitar-based blues, the kind of guitar-bass-drum-vocals that practitioners such as Junior Kimbrough made famous. Welch’s voice is creaky and world-weary, but he brings a bucket of energy to his singing, a verve that belies his 80-odd ears. The tunes are straightforward—some would say simplistic—but the repetitious guitar lines and call-and-response vocals suit the material perfectly. That material, surprisingly, is largely devotional in nature, with Welch growling out the praises of the Lord to accompaniments more often associated with tales of whiskey and wimmin.


Opener “Praise His Name” sets the tone immediately, and the album rarely deviates, with tunes like “You Can’t Hurry God” and “The Lord Will Make a Way” offering up home truths. There’s a bit of bouncy piano and acoustic guitar sprinkled throughout the tracks, most notably on the moving “Mother Loves her Children”, but most often it’s the chicken-scratch electric guitar that accompanies Welch’s voice, as on “Me and My Lord”, “Praying Time” and the rave-up “His Holy Name”. This record sounds like it has oozed up from the Delta swamps to deliver a lesson on how things used to be done. Recommended for any blues fan who isn’t afraid of overtly devotional material.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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