Leo Welch and the Sabougla Voices: An Album Review

story Leo Welch’s “Sabougla Voices” is my favorite album from 2013. Leo Welch was born in 1932 and “Sabougla Voices” is his debut album. It was released when he was 82 years old. This makes me wonder what I’ll be doing at age 82. To be clear, Leo Welch has been making music for years and is known locally for his work (Sabougla, Mississippi), but now he’s making waves around the world.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this happened. It’s simple really. He called a record label in Oxford, auditioned and was immediately given a record contract. Before that, Leo Welch had always stayed local. He’s lived his entire life in or near Sabougla, Mississippi. With the blues being such an ingrained part of Southern culture, its possible that there are other would-be-blues-stars hiding out in rural parts of America.

This album is great and it’s a natural blend of blues, rock and gospel. If you’re a fan of the late bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins, you’ll love the track Mother Loves Her Children from “Sabougla Voices”. It’s simple bluesy attitude makes it, in my opinion, the best song on the album. What’s exciting about this album, is that many of the songs are undoubtably new versions of classic gospel songs. I don’t want to call them covers, because there’s definitely a history of adaptation within these genres. However, for example, Rev. C.L. Franklin sang a version of Mother Loves Her Children that was titled Your Mother Loves Her Children. Songs on the album like Praise His Name have the garage feel of classic American blues with a true gospel influence.

The album is undeniably religious, but this shouldn’t scare away listeners who don’t enjoy religious music. This album is pure americana. It’s a taste of days past, but it’s new. All I can say is that I sure hope Leo Welch sticks around for another 82 years.

You can listen to “Sabougla Voices” here.

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