Sabougla Voices: Juke Joint Blues Man Leo Welch

The advent of a new year is typically greeted with a resolution, some new goal – or perhaps an old goal revisited – that will result in a positive change.

After reading the story of Leo Welch, my resolution for 2014 has changed. Gone are thoughts of getting outside more, losing a few pounds, or reducing the amount of time I spend on Facebook.

Instead, I am simplifying. I hereby resolve to remember that there is no time like the present.

Mississippi blues man Leo Welch is my inspiration. Last week, at the ripe young age of 81, Welch released his debut album, Sabougla Voices. Welch’s record came to be because, as an octogenarian, he grasped that simple concept – there is no time like the present. Welch, a longtime gospel blues player, picked up the phone and cold called the folks at Big Legal Mess, a Mississippi record label with juke joint all stars like Junior Kimbrough and Fred McDowell on its roster, and pitched his record.

Instead of being turned down, which is what most of us what probably assume would happen at the end of most calls like this, Welch found himself with an invitation to come down to the label’s office to pick some tunes.

Welch is, indeed, a fine musician; he plays guitar, harmonica, and fiddle, and once even had the opportunity to audition to B.B. King, though tough financial times kept Welch from making the trip to Memphis for the tryout.

Sabougla Voices has the rough and ragged feel of a Mississippi juke joint blues jam, though Welch honed his craft playing in churches, which – these days – vastly outnumber the of juke joins in Mississippi. The songs on the record are honest and real, alternating between rollicking, electrified numbers like “Take Care Of Me Lord” and “Somebody Touched Me” to acoustic tunes like “The Lord Will Make A Way” and “Mother Loves Her Children.” Nowhere on any of these tracks is there an ounce of pretension. Instead, Welch sings of trial and tribulation, faith and praise, with both the confidence of the blues world’s greats and the repentant soul of a sinner.

As I have listened to Sabougla Voices over the last few weeks, I cannot help but think of this 80-year-old man picking up the phone, dialing a record label, and pitching a record. Carpe diem, indeed. I want to latch on to the spirit that led to Welch’s phone call, as it is a definite reminder that there is no time like the present. If you have something you want to do, do it. Make the phone call. Climb the mountain. Run the river.

That’s excellent advice for a brand new year.

Make sure to check out “Praise His Name,” the lead cut from Sabougla Voices, on this month’s Trail Mix.  For more information on Leo Welch, surf over to


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