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CD REVIEW -- Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials
GLT blues radio

Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials


The Big Sound of Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials


Alligator Records


14 Tracks

Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials Big Sound CD

By Mark Thompson

          Life is full of changes. Technology continues to bring a wealth of improvements – and some thorny issues – to our daily lives, at a rate that often keeps heads spinning furiously as we battle to keep up. The key to survival is to adapt, then adapt some more while trying to manage technology and still get enjoyment out of our time on the planet.


          It is no different in the realm of music. Bands are here today, then disappear only to rise again in a modified configuration. Pioneers like Bob Dylan and the late Miles Davis are (or were) constantly searching, changing their approach to music like a snake shedding its skin, often leaving their fans stunned and thoroughly baffled at the transformation. The world of blues music has grown exponentially to include a multitude of approaches that often obliterate the music's true essence.


          Lil' Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials are the antithesis of change and technology. Together for almost three decades, several lifetimes for most bands, the quartet can always be counted on to serve up plenty of raw-edged blues that are grounded in the traditional sounds that filled clubs on Chicago's West and South sides more than fifty years ago. Lil' Ed's half-brother, James “Pookie” Young, lays down rumbling bass lines throughout the disc, freeing up drummer Kelly Littleton to vary the beat while adding crisp accents to accentuate the leader's jagged slide licks. Rhythm guitarist Michael Garrett gets several opportunities to showcase his guitar prowess.


          The disc does provide one change – Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi joins the band on keyboards. On the opening track, “Giving Up On Your Love,” he uses his electronic keyboard to fill space in the arrangement while Lil' Ed sings a somber eulogy on a no-good woman. He is equally eloquent on his slide guitar, reminding listeners that he has not forgotten the lessons learned from his uncle, the esteemed J.B. Hutto. On “Deep In My Soul,” Ariyo creates sweet embellishments on the piano that lends an introspective aspect to the Lil' Ed original.


          “Poor Man's Song” is another rough-hewn Williams original reflecting on the sad financial condition of the world we live in. But all is forgotten once the band kicks out the rollicking groove on “Shy Voice,” with the singer professing his burning desire for that special woman just beyond his reach. Lil' Ed's piercing slide leads add a chilling effect to “Black Diamond Love” before igniting the passion on “Whiskey Flavored Tears”.


          Garrett's smooth picking rides the swinging tempo of “I'm Done,” then plays some intense, single note interludes on “Troubled World,” a notable highlight with Williams giving his own thought-provoking assessment on the human condition. Tracks like “Raining In Paris,”  “Is It You,” and “I Like My Hot Sauce Cold” may have generic lyrics, but the musical accompaniment is delivered with an infectious spirit that wins you over. It all comes together on “I'll Cry Tomorrow”. The band excels at wringing plenty of heartache out of a slow blues, one tortuous note at a time. They wrap things up with a fast-paced run-through of “Green Light Groove”.


          Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials epitomize Alligator Records’ “Genuine Houserockin' Music” motto. It is a bit hard to believe that this only the ninth release for the label over the band's lengthy career. Thankfully they have stayed bonded together in a musical brotherhood that has received numerous blues awards and remains one of the top live acts touring today. The band won Best Blues Band honors from Blues Blast Music Awards in September 2016.


Once again Lil' Ed is bringing the party to listeners around the world. Pop the disc in, turn it up, and let him ease your worried mind!


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