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RL Burnside is gone. So are Junior Kimbrough and T Model Ford. Robert Belfour seems to have retired. So who’s going to pick up the mantle of contemporary Mississippi blues? If Sabougla Voices is any indication, it’s Leo Welch. The 81-year-old Saboulga native keeps the faith in more ways than one, though. He not only sticks to the tried-and-true tools of the trade – country blues, boogie, 12-bar and that indefinable North Mississippi Hill Country drive – but does so in service of the Lord. Stripped to little more than guitar, a polite rhythm section and Welch’s craggy singing, “Take Care of Me Lord,” “A Long Journey” and “You Can’t Hurry God” avoid gospel fervor for more plainspoken devotionals, mainlining soul directly into your cerebral cortex. In the wrong hands,praising the Lord can become histrionic and insufferable, especially to those not on the gospel train. But Welch, in the same tradition as classic blues practitioners like Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and the Rev. Gary Davis, makes the Word sound like the real thing even to the most heathen among us.
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