Next to nothing is known about Chicago blues singer and pianist Nolan Welsh other than what can be deduced from the evidence of a handful of recordings which bear his distinctive personal imprint. He certainly deserves to be remembered as more than a footnote to the early adventures of cornetist Louis Armstrong, with whom he recorded "The Bridwell Blues" and the "St. Peter Blues" for Okeh on June 16, 1926, although these prized performances are well worth experiencing as breathtaking examples of young Armstrong the inspired, laid-back accompanist. As a singer, Welsh expressed himself in a voice that carried more than a bit of Blind Lemon Jefferson's pitch, punch, and potency. Like the Armstrong session, Welsh's lesser known second Okeh recording date, which took place on November 18, 1926, was anchored by the piano of composer, bandleader, and talent scout Richard M. Jones. On this occasion, Armstrong was replaced by violinist Clarence Black, a native of Cynthiana, KY who spent most of his life working in Chicago's theater and ballroom orchestras both as leader and first chair fiddler. Equally obscure but well worth searching out are three Paramount recordings made by the singer under his alternate identity of Barrelhouse Welsh. These rarities, consisting of an unreleased test pressing from November 1928 and two issued sides cut in January 1929, were made available to the public by Document during the '90s on Piano Blues, Vol. 3 (Document 5314). Even while vocally pouring his heart and soul into songs about women, larceny, and terminal illness, Welsh demonstrated a convincing ability to massage the ivories with a skill comparable to that of Turner Parrish, Blind Leroy Garnett, or Charlie Spand. The nine tracks described here and reissued by Document appear to constitute Welsh's entire recorded output.
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