Album Reviews

Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials

The Big Sound Of Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials

Artist:     Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials

Album:     The Big Sound Of...

Label:     Alligator Records

Release Date:     09/23/2016

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This Big Sound is the foundation upon which Alligator Records was built. Beginning with the slide guitar boogie of Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers and spawned by the Chicago blues legends of Elmore James and Ed’s uncle, J.B. Hutto, Ed and his four member band have been churning out their own bottleneck boogie for almost thirty years now. This is their ninth album. What separates the charismatic, effervescent Ed Williams from so many others is his sense of humor, clever songwriting and virtually unmatched ability to electrify a crowd from the very first note. Festival favorites worldwide, fans adore Ed and his band.

As the name of their 1986 debut album, Roughhousin’, suggests, theirs is a ragged, hard-edged sound that remains intact 30 years later. Ed and his half-brother, bassist James ‘Pookie’ Young, began playing together in their early teens, mentored by their uncle, J. B. Hutto. “J.B. taught me everything I know,” says Ed. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.” Here they cover two of J.B’s tunes, “Shy Voice” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.” The other twelve are either written by Ed or co-written with his wife, Pam. Titles like “I Like My Hot Sauce Cold” and “Whiskey Flavored Tears” are vintage Ed. Unlike the sound of Elmore or Hound Dog, every track is not a slide guitar scorcher. The album is well paced, offering blistering Chicago blues like shuffles offset by slow, smoldering tracks. The interplay between Ed and his lead guitarist, Michael Garrett, keeps the music varied and interesting, with Ed’s convincing, soulful vocals steady throughout. Also, keyboardist Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi flushes out the sound in key places, pounding the piano on “Whiskey Flavored Tears” and a soulful bed of organ on the slow burner, “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.” A similar sequence occurs on the intense “Troubled World” into the blistering slide, piano rave-up closer, “Green Light Groove.”

This is not only the big sound of Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials. This is the engaging, authentic, raw as it gets, real deal Chicago blues sound of Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials. Feel it.

-Jim Hynes

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