Leo "Bud" Welch

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Perhaps no one is more qualified to answer that question than Mississippi guitarist Leo "Bud" Welch, born 1932. Although Welch first picked up the guitar in 1945, the Sabougla native spent more than three decades earning his primary living not from playing blues but working as a lumberjack in the Magnolia State. Finally, after years of picking in obscurity at fish fries, family picnics, and in church, the octogenarian powerhouse is no longer flying below the world's radar, having released two critically acclaimed CDs on the Fat Possum-affiliated label Big Legal Mess Records: "Sabougla Voices" (2014) and "I Don't Prefer No Blues" (2015), the latter featuring additional guitar from Jimbo Mathus.

Still, Welch and his guitar (and harmonica and fiddle) were making significant noise well before his 21st-century record deal. Performing publically since 1947, Welch reportedly was offered an audition with the legendary B.B. King but couldn't afford the trip to Memphis. So in between making music with his chainsaw, Welch played blues in his immediate local orbit until 1975, when he had a conversion — to gospel, joining his sister and sister-in-law in the Sabougla Voices as well as playing with the Skuna Valley Male Chorus and other church groups. The result was (and is) a striking amalgamation of sizzling blues guitar melded with religious fervor and intensity — Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Mississippi John Hurt rubbing shoulders with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The sounds of Leo "Bud" Welch: Old and profound as the hills, but new to the ears of blues lovers looking for the next big traditional torchbearer out of Mississippi's fertile juke-joint country. You've got to see this crucial piece of the true blues cross!

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