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A Debut Album At 81 Years Old

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A Debut Album At 81 Years Old

Music Interviews


This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The New Year is a time of new beginnings - resolutions, projects, new directions. So it's a perfectly appropriate time of year for Leo Welch, at the age of 81, to put out his debut album.


LEO WELCH: (Singing) And I don't know what you come to do. I don't know what you come to do. I don't know what you come to do...

MARTIN: Leo Welch has been making music around the tiny town of Bruce, Miss., for decades. He was a local standout unknown to the outside world until he called up an Oxford-based record label, went in for an audition, and signed a record deal on the spot. The result is "Sabougla Voices." It's an album brimming with gospel songs, with titles like "Praise His Name" and "Take Care of Me Lord." But Leo Welch has the soul and sound of a blues man.

WELCH: That's what it was - blues. I tell them I was born not with the blues; I born in the blues.

MARTIN: Born in the blues. Leo Welch went into the Memphis studio of WKNO last week to talk with us about his music.


WELCH: (Singing) Your mother love her children, all the time...

MARTIN: Well, let's get into the album a little bit. Let's hear a song. This is "Mother Loves Her Children." Let's take a listen.


WELCH: (Singing) There's no matter, what the crime, mother always said, this child is mine. And your mother loves her children, all the time...

I used to think about how my mother would love and cared for us. And so, that's why I choose that song now.

MARTIN: Did you give your mother a lot of trouble?

WELCH: Not too much. 'Cause I know not to give her no trouble 'cause I know what's coming behind that trouble. That's a good whipping and that's what I would really get when I do wrong. She threw me up and tell me to fly right now and do right and you won't get no whooping. I said, yes, mama.


WELCH: (Singing) And your mother loves her children, all the time.

MARTIN: Let's play another track off the album. This is a gospel song. This is called "You Can't Hurry God." Let's take a listen.


WELCH: (Singing) You can't hurry God, no, you got to wait...

MARTIN: So, what has that meant in your own life, you can't hurry God? What does that mean to you?

WELCH: Well, that means that, you know, we just have to trust Him, believe in Him and give Him time. He may not come when we want Him to come but any time He comes, He's always on time. He's right on time.


WELCH: (Singing) He's right on time. He's right on time. He's right on time. He's right on time.

No matter if it's 3 o'clock, 2 o'clock, back on up to one or go forward to 5 o'clock, 6, 7 o'clock, He's always on time.


WELCH: (Singing) He may not come when you want Him, but hold on.

MARTIN: It's a great band on this new album, some really lovely backing vocals, lovely production. But I wonder if there is something especially satisfying about the next song I'm going to play. This is a track that's rather stripped down. This is just you and an acoustic guitar. Let's take a listen to the track called "The Lord Will Make a Way."


WELCH: (Singing) I know the Lord, will make a way, yes, he will...

Oh, yeah. That's the way I would learn how to really play, coming up playing the acoustic guitar. Just me and my guitar and myself and the good Lord. And that's the reason why I knew some days the Lord would make a (unintelligible). He would make a wish somehow. He allowed us over to 2014 down through the New Year of 2013. And I'm glad to say I' glad to be here on this day.

MARTIN: Well, I'm hope we're listening to your music for a long time. Mr. Leo Welch. His new album is called "Sabougla Voices." He spoke to us from member station WKNO in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Welch, Happy New Year.

WELCH: Happy New Year to you.

MARTIN: Thank you so much.

WELCH: Thank you.

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