Better late than never. It doesn’t just apply to this long-overdue posthumous album from Mississippi bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch; it’s basically the story of his entire career. Although he began playing gospel when he was 13 and performed professionally throughout his life, he also toiled as a lumberjack for 30 years — and didn’t release his first album until the tender age of 81. That was 2014. Three years and one more disc later, he was gone — but thankfully, not before spending a week in 2015 recording a few dozen songs with Dan Auerbach and his band The Arcs at the Black Keys singer-guitarist’s Easy Eye Studio in Nashville. The 10 cuts collected here capture everyone in good spirits and fine form. Although reportedly in failing health, Welch still delivers the goods, laying down gruff heartfelt vocals and raw, spindly guitar lines on gospel classics like Jesus on the Mainline, Let it Shine and the powerfully moving I Wanna Die Easy. Auerbach and his Arcs tastefully and skillfully bolster him with thumping swamp grooves, church organs and backup vocals equally suited to Saturday night at the juke joint or Sunday morning in church. By the time the heavenly but too-short 26-minute disc draws to a close, you’ll have just two questions: 1) Why did it take so long for this to see the light of day? And 2) When can we hear more?
STANDOUTS: Jesus on the Mainline, Don’t Let the Devil Ride, I Wanna Die Easy.