Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
Released shortly after his death, this award-winning feature length documentary tells the story of how former Mississippi log cutter and field worker Leo 'Bud' Welch finally found success and recognition after releasing his debut album at the ripe old age of 81. Directed by Austrian pair Stefan Wolner and Wolfgang Almer, there is a delightfully homely feel to proceedings with all involved showing great affection to Welch who, despite betraying some cantankerous moments in the film, comes across as loveable, humble and most definitely the real deal. Whilst Welch is the main muse, this film is also the story of his faithful and long-suffering manager Vencie Varnado - a Gulf War veteran who effectively discovered Welch and, going by some of the on-the-road footage, ended up also becoming his closest friend, carer and chaperone. Welch is captured plying his rough and ready trade in various locations including churches, blues bars and festivals and, whilst a somewhat stressful-looking trip to Austria may have been a step too far for the old man, it does highlight the fact that his music reached much further afield in his last few years than anyone could have imagined. Interviews with the likes of Varnado, Welch and Big Legal Mess Records owner Bruce Watson provide the narrative for this fascinating biography and, although the contribution from Welch's numerous children is bizarrely short and awkward, there are enough anecdotes from all involved to give a well-rounded insight into Welch's life out of the spotlight as well as in it. Given his imminent death, the last word from the man himself right at the very end of the film is a moment of sheer poignancy that will either have you smiling or shedding a tear as the credits roll in front of an archive performance from a much younger Welch. Bonus features include an historic local television interview with Welch, a horrendously out of tune latter day church performance and a short excerpt from a Q&A session with one of the directors.
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