Leo Welch – Sabougla Voices (2014)

Leo Welch’s music comes from that place where down-home gospel meets up with jukey blues (would that be the church’s backporch?), filling your heart even as it gets your toe to tapping.

Ignoring the lyrics, you might never know that some of these songs are so unvarnishedly faith-based. Not as Welch, a native of Sabougla, Miss., oversees a series of floorboard-rearranging grooves on Sabougla Voices, due Junuary 7, 2014, via the Fat Possum-distributed Big Legal Mess.

“Praise His Name” catches a tough, serrated riff, while “You Can’t Hurry God” rattles along with a joyous clatter. “Take Care of Me Lord” finds Welch in a ragged call-and-response amidst a relentless guitar cadence. “His Holy Name” skips along with a Junior Kimbrough-esque locomotive grind. Yet there is something else going on here — as the titles, no doubt suggest. Something that will touch your heart.

Welch, who plays host to a locally broadcast gospel show every other Sunday, speaks a language of raw, unbending faith inside these rough-and-tumble blues-based surroundings. As the rangy acoustic closing track “Love Will Make a Way” echoes past, the fortifying strength of these twin musical impulses is made utterly clear all over again. They never were that far apart, really. And Welch closes that distance for good.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.