Audio Mixer: Bronson Tew.
Recording information: Dial Back Sound, Water Valley, MS.
Photographer: Aubrey Edwards.
In 2014, 81-year-old Delta guitar wrangler and blues shouter Leo Bud Welch released Sabougla Voices, his debut album. With Welch having spent his adult life playing in church, this collection of raw gospel songs was greeted with excitement on the blues scene. Welch toured the world playing not only clubs but festival stages. Part of his deal with Fat Possum's Big Legal Mess was that if he got to record his Sunday morning gospel album, he'd deliver them its other side: a set of blues tunes from Saturday night's juke joint heart. Produced by label boss Bruce Watson, I Don't Prefer No Blues is woolly, frenetic, jagged, and raucous. That said, one of its finest tracks is the standard "Poor Boy," an outlier musically and lyrically. The lone track produced by Jimbo Mathus (who plays guitar elsewhere) commences with Welch and Shardé Thomas' mournful twinned moans followed by a snare, an upright bass, and an acoustic guitar backed by a choir to complete the funereal lament. It's the emotional and spiritual bridge to Sabougla Voices. From here on out, that bridge gets all but burned in the hedonistic fire that follows. "Girl in the Holler" is a swampy choogler filled with unspoken desire as Welch and Mathus move back and forth with riffs and fills atop a rattling drum kit. On "I Don't Know Her Name," Mathus adds distortion and a fuzz guitar freakout to his stomping uptempo blues swagger. A Farfisa organ squalls in the backdrop as Welch literally begins to howl his lust like a dog. Other standards, such as the sludgy "Goin' Down Slow" and the manic strut of "Cadillac Baby," are delivered with authority that testifies. "Too Much Wine," played with wah-wah guitar, organ, and clattering snares, is dirty and funky; it's a juke joint floor stomper. While the theme of "Pray On" is gospel, its form is revved-up rock and blasted blues with the band grooving on stun. The set ends with a razor-sharp reading of Robert Nighthawk's classic "Sweet Black Angel." In it, the electric Delta music of R.L Burnside meets the early Chicago sound of Muddy Waters, bringing the tradition as it opens up on rock & roll. I Don't Prefer No Blues is drenched in lineage and history, but refuses to be bound by them. Simply by playing his own interpretation of the music he's been surrounded with all his life, Welch has given us a blues album for the ages. ~ Thom Jurek