Dan Auerbach Brings the Music of Bluesman Leo 'Bud' Welch to Life on 'Don't Let the Devil Ride': Video Premiere

Dan Auerbach, left, with Leo ‘Bud’ Welch, seated, and members of The Arcs
Alysse Gafkjen

Dan Auerbach (left), Leon Michels, Richard Swift and Leo “Bud” Welch (seated bottom).

Leo "Bud" Welch may not exactly be a household name, even among real rural blues aficionados. But Dan Auerbach is doing his part to raise the late Mississippi musician's profile with the forthcoming album The Angels in Heaven Done Signed My Name -- whose video for the track "Don't Let the Devil Ride" is premiering exclusively below.

The sessions for the album took place during late September 2015, when Welch was able to squeeze in a two-day session at Auerbach's Easy Eye studio in Nashville. "I was just a fan," Auerbach, who was introduced to Welch and his music by Fat Possum Records owner Bruce Watson, tells Billboard. "We set up to do a little recording not really knowing what was going to happen. Leo just played all these songs he’s played his whole life and he was teaching us these songs and it was just great. It was just all of us sitting in a room together, playing those songs. It was really awesome."

The 10 tracks on The Angels..., which comes out March 8, add significantly to Welch's canon. The singer and guitarist, who died Dec. 19, 2017, released two albums during his lifetime and was also the subject of the 2018 documentary Late Blossom Blues. He also had a gospel ministry, playing at churches around the country, and passed on an invitation to audition for B.B. King's band because he couldn't afford the hotel room.

"Growing up being a blues-obsessed kid, [Welch] was just the real deal," says Auerbach, who gave Welch his 1953 Gibson Les Paul to use on the album. "They don't make them like that anymore. He was a rare breed, even then. It was just this real deep, hard-core Mississippi blues gospel that he played. It's so raw, like the most raw blues that I love, but it's all gospel songs, all thee uplifting songs."

The "Don't Let the Devil Ride" video comes from footage shot during the New Orleans’ Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival in 2015, with the studio recording synced to the film. "He was just a showman. You can see how much fun he's having on stage, getting up and dancing during the solo and stuff," Auerbach says. "That's what he was like in the studio, too. He was having so much fun; He would talk into the microphone like he was talking to the audience, telling the microphone how much fun he was having. That spirit comes through in the video, which I love."

A couple of additional tracks were recorded during the sessions, which may be released at some point although Auerbach says there are no plans at the moment. Welch, however, never got to hear the recordings, which Auerbach held onto until he fully established his Easy Eye Records label. "He never came back through town, and it was never finished until after he passed away, unfortunately," Auerbach notes. "So it was a little bittersweet opening up those recordings again to finish the project, so I wanted to make sure to do him justice."

The Angels... was also Auerbach's last session with Richard Swift, with whom he worked in The Black Keys and The Arcs and recruited to play drums on the set. Swift died July 3 of complications from a variety of health issues. "Richard and I used to sit backstage on Black Keys tours and listen to gospel records all day long, so [the Welch album] was a dream come true for us," Auerbach remembers. "We just had so much fun, and Rich really plays his ass off on the record. You can hear him; Leo's tempo and right hand were so rock solid, and Rich is drumming like Animal from The Muppets. It's another great memory to have."


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