Big Legal Mess 2013
10 tracks; 34 minutes
The music of the churches in rural southern states retains the rough-hewn feel of yesteryear, albeit often with electric instruments. This release gives us ten examples of what one might find in a church in Mississippi on a Sunday. The combination of Leo’s rough, world-weary voice singing praise to the Lord and music that is pure North Mississippi Hill Country blues will delight fans of both gospel and Hill Country styles.
There is an interesting story here. 81 year-old Leo Welch phoned the offices of Big Legal Mess to see if they might be interested in releasing his recording. An intern was in the process of telling him that they did not release much blues any more when label boss Bruce Watson overheard the conversation, took over and invited the caller to stop by to play a few songs. Hearing his authentic blues and gospel voice, Bruce signed Leo on the spot and the CD now available is the result. The promo copy available for review gives no details of personnel but there is guitar, bass, drums and some keyboards, as well as backing voices from the Sabougla Voices. There is also no information on where these tracks were recorded but one can imagine that they were made in church back in Leo’s home area of Calhoun County, Mississippi.
Opening track “Praise His Name” is a good example of the general style here with a repetitive guitar riff at the heart of everything, the band following Leo’s lead on a fast-paced blues before Leo’s voice comes in with support from the backing choir. The rolling blues of “Take Care Of Me Lord” follows a similar pattern but at a slightly less frantic pace. “You Can’t Hurry God” adds some honkytonk piano to the mix and the handclaps that accompany the drums sound just as they would in a church setting. “Mother Loves Her Children” is different in approach, a slow refrain with just acoustic guitar and gentle brushwork on drums. “Long Journey” is another slow blues, recounting Leo’s faith that at the end of this life there will be the resurrection. “His Holy Name” rocks along with ringing guitar and busy drums while “The Lord Will Make A Way” follows in quiet, reflective mood to close the album, just Leo and his acoustic guitar giving us a final expression of his faith.
This is not an album for the casual listener to blues-rock or the slick production values we find in many contemporary blues and soul recordings, but if the ‘real deal’ voice of blues and gospel as can still be heard in the churches of the south interests you this will be an album to seek out.
The music here is not to this reviewer’s personal taste but all credit to Big Legal Mess for issuing these recordings from a man who has devoted his life to his music,his church and his community.