Sabougla Voices by Leo Welch

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Not many debut albums are issued by an 81 year old but so it is with Leo Welch and his Sabougla Voices.

He was born is Sabougla, Mississippi, in 1932, smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression. During his early years he performed at parties and picnics but never garnered enough attention to receive a recording contract. He eventually retreated to the church to play his brand of gospel blues.

His recording career began when he called the Mississippi based label, Big Label Mess. The label had released albums by Junior Kembrough, Reverend John Wilkins, Water Lairs, and Bishop Manning and the Manning Family and he wondered if they would be interested in his brand of gospel and blues. It turned out to be a call worth making.

Gospel music and the blues have always been first cousins and Welch strides the line between the two styles. Songs such as “Praise His Name,” “Take Care Of Me Lord,” “His Holy Name,” and “The Lord Will Make A Way” may be right out of a southern church choir hymnal but he is at heart a blues singer and he moves them toward that format. It all adds up to an interesting hybrid that is pure American music, courtesy of the Southern Delta.

Hopefully the blues audience will find him and this album as it is a throw-back to when the blues developed. His music is the type of raw but powerful music that burst out of the south in the pre-World War II era. What makes him and his sound somewhat unique if that he traveled the church circuit and did not play in bars and juke joints.

Who knows how many other old bluesmen are waiting to be discovered in the Southern Delta but for many, time is running out. Sabougla Voices is a validation of a life lived for the blues.

Rating: ***1/2

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