Album Review

Pushing the Boundaries of Tradition With Electric Intensity

Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials - The Big Sound of Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials

You are going to want to get up and move to this gentleman’s raucous, rowdy, randy, intense, joyful music.  He has been playing the blues for over 30 years and comes by them genetically and naturally  from his uncle, slide guitar master, J.B. Hutto.  Somewhere or other I heard a story about Ed when he was too young to be in the clubs, that J.B. would put a big hat on him and draw mustaches on his face and slip him into the clubs, just saying I heard this somewhere (tho I just heard it is true).  It sure does show though because this man and his band have been rocking the juke joints, bars, and festivals all over the world for close on 30 years playing their genuine Chicago Blues Music with Lil’ Ed and his slide guitar out front blowing the audiences away. 

If you haven’t seen this band it would be a good idea to keep an eye on club listings in your area, he is that good, and packs that much excitement into a show.  This band has been playing together with the same personal since 1988, and as you know for the same people to travel and play all those gig for the last 27 years together says an awful lot about their chemistry and love.  Think of any bands that have continued year in year out for even 20 years and how many names come up.  Think what happens to bands that stay together like that, pounding it out on those long road miles it takes to travel to all those festivals and gigs in all those countries: Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Japan, Australia, India, Turkey and Panama, and when you add up the festivals and gigs in the USA, that’s a hell of a lot of miles.  

The band is led by Lil’ Ed’s passionate singing and his incendiary slide guitar playing, and standing right beside him from when they were youngsters, on bass, is his half brother, James “Pookie” Young, and rounding out the band is the guitar of Mike Garrett and the drums of his Detroit buddy, Kenny Littleton.   They ignite crowds each and every gig; as you walk in the room there is an electric feel, like you are waiting for the fuse to be lit, and the band to take off.  Probably one of the the hardest working bands that I have ever stopped in to see and then they cause some of the biggest smiles on the faces of those in the audience.  

After 27 years they are still going strong with this new disc.  There are fourteen songs and twelve of them have Lil’ Ed or Lil’ Ed and his wife Pam Williams as the author, the other two are written by his uncle J.B.  Lil’ Ed’s songs stand up there shoulder to shoulder with his, and he can sure mimic his uncle’s haunting guitar sound when he wants to.  This is Lil’ Ed carrying on the tradition, and he is up to the task.  The songs are strong and that distinctive traditional Chicago sound is right there, the family’s  customary sound with a seamless changing of the guard. No you are not going to mistake one for the other, although he learned his lessons well he isn’t his uncle, however the familial sound is there and it is alive.  Lil’ Ed is his own person and has put together a strong band and his songs are equally strong and even more quirky than most blues men will allow.  Not only is this band keeping the music alive, but it is grown up, and has come into its own as a vibrant entity.  This is the legacy he was dealt and as he is taking it to new heights and directions, at the same time being faithful to the sound and the energy that he inherited.  Traditional Chicago Blues is alive and well and in very good hands. 


by bob gottlieb