Leo “Bud” Welch Don’t Prefer No Blues

Read about ‘I Don’t Prefer No Blues’ by Leo Bud Welch

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Leo “Bud” Welch in New Orleans October 2014

Mississippi Bluesman LEO “BUD” WELCH
Ramps It Up On Second Album – ‘I Don’t Prefer No Blues’

At age 82, bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch rocks on stage like a teenager — dancing and spinning as he beats out jagged chords and rough-hewn solos on his pink, sparkle-covered guitar.  I was a mesmerised witness to his performance at The Crescent City Blues n BBQ festival in New Orleans last year.  Phew, what a set and what a joy to behold a real-deal Mississippi blues veteran whose star is finally beginning to shine (in the same belated vein as the great, late R.L. Burnside).

Welch’s first album Sabougla Voices was released at the tender age of 81.  That album was heralded as a fresh breath of rust-bearing air — a throwback to an era of rural music free from outside influences and a reminder that blues-fueled primitivism is still personified by a handful of living Southern artists.

What’s in store for us in his follow-up I Don’t Prefer No Blues?  That raw energy and old-school juke-joint authenticity appear to be going to blend full-throttle in the ten songs on his second release for Fat Possum Records’ subsidiary Big Legal Mess.  Reportedly, the album is a garage-blues manifesto that weds waves of guitar distortion and gut-bucket drums with Welch’s smoke-and-ash voice.

‘I Don’t Prefer No Blues’ is what the preacher at Welch’s church said when he found out Welch was making a blues album.  “Up until Sabougla Voices came out, I had only played spirituals in the church and in tents for about 50 years,” Welch explains.  But these days Welch does prefer blues.  Playing blues on stage since the debut release has proven transformative for the resident of the small town Bruce, Mississippi.  He’s toured parts of the U.S. and Europe, and played for audiences of all ages at international festivals such as Crescent City and the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference in Nashville.

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“I’m doing things I never thought I’d do,” Welch relates.  “I never thought I’d get to play outside of Mississippi or travel to other countries.  Now I’m playing for all kinds of people and seeing the world.

…the first time I had to go on a plane I thought they’d have to blindfold me, knock me out and tie me up to get me on board.

I’m also keeping all my bills paid up to date, which I couldn’t before.”

Big Legal Mess owner and house producer Bruce Watson took the wheel for the new album, steering Welch into crunching, genre-blending sonic and creative territory.  “The deal I made with Leo was the first record would be gospel and the second would be blues,” Watson says.  “Honestly, I was just trying to do something different than your typical blues record — trying to f–k things up a bit.  I think I succeeded.”

The opening cut, a take on the traditional song “Poor Boy” frames Welch’s scorched-oak singing with a rattling drum kit, upright bass, a choir and the angelic voice of Sharde Thomas — a doyenne of ancient Mississippi music who inherited the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band from her late grandfather Othar Turner.  Mississippi neo-trad. firebrand Jimbo Mathus also adds clangorous guitar to the album.

“I grew up on a farm and had to walk two miles to school in the rain and mud,” he recounts.  “Most of the time we didn’t have no money from March to November, when the crops came in, but I made it through eighth grade and then I started plowing mule and hoeing cotton.”  Welch worked as a logger for the 35 years before he retired in 1995.  “I stood next to that chainsaw all day, so that’s why I don’t hear too good.”

That may explain the consistently raw, buzzing volume of Welch’s guitar on stage live.  “Playing guitar is my favorite ‘like,’ ”  Welch says. “I learned by hearing records by Jimmy Reed, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters … and I saw them when they came through Bruce.  I once even had a chance to audition for B.B. King’s band, but I didn’t have the bus fare to get to Memphis.”

“Right now is a great point in my life,” Welch continues.  “I’m doing things I’ve never been able to do before and I feel good doing them at an age when a lot of people are dead.  So as long as I can I want to go around the world trying to send satisfaction to people.  Doing that is a great feeling to me.”

Roll on release date March 24!

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Read about ‘I Don’t Prefer No Blues’ by Leo Bud Welch

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Author: Rob Dickens

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