Lil' ED and The Blues Imperials – Full Tilt 2008

Lil’ ED and The Blues Imperials – Full Tilt 2008

Blues

Full Tilt isn’t just an album title to diminutive slide guitar slinger Lil’ Ed Williams. It’s the only way he plays — even on this CD’s slow double entendre blues “Check My Baby’s Oil,” where Lil’ Ed’s guitar maintains its serrated keen as his Blues Imperials ply a gentle groove under their boss’s most restrained warm-clay crooning. This disc also marks Ed and his backing trio’s 20th year updating the slide-driven sound Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, and Ed’s uncle J.B. Hutto defined in Chicago’s fertile ’50s and ’60s blues scene. Williams assimilates his influences’ finest qualities. He sings with the howling wildness of James and Hutto, which swaps the urban sophistication of the R&B classic “First I Look at the Purse” for a dirty juke joint patina. The James and Nighthawk inspired melodies of Ed’s slide on the heartbreak ballad “Life Got in the Way” have the slow ebb of falling teardrops. And when Ed tackles Taylor’s traditional set-ender “Take Five” his speed and precise intonation, also drawn from Nighthawk and James, allow him to execute a slew of delirious, whinnying, moaning slide effects without upending the song. Track-to-track Full Tilt is raw, deeply rooted, and unremittingly entertaining.
By Ted Drozdowski.
**
Lil’ Ed Williams is an awe-inspiring master bluesman. He and his blistering, road-tested band, The Blues Imperials,guitarist Mike Garrett, bassist James “Pookie” Young, drummer Kelly Littleton–are celebrating 20 amazing years together. Live, Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials simply can’t be beat as Ed breaks out the deepest back-bends, the highest toe-walks, and the most authentic electric slide-guitar blues being played today. Not since the heyday of Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers has a Chicago blues band made such a consistently joyous, rollicking noise
On their new Alligator album, FULL TILT, Lil’ Ed’s romping, sizzling guitar and rough-hewn vocals, Young’s thumping bass, Garrett’s feral rhythm guitar and Littleton’s unpredictable, rock-solid drumming produce a modern blues firestorm steeped in tradition. Produced by Williams and Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, Full Tilt captures all of Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials’ legendary live energy on disc. From foot-stomping boogies to emotionally charged slow blues to rocked out celebrations, FULL TILT is a party-inducing delight. The addition of horn players Eddie McKinley and David Basinger and pianist/organist Johnny Iguana on a few songs add even more punch and power to the proceedings.
**
The blues is a relatively limited form – stray too far from convention and it simply isn’t blues anymore. And one can argue that it’s long been pretty much perfected, with little room left for innovation or ongoing development.
Throughout their career, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials haven’t deviated from the raucous, slash and burn blues they managed to get absolutely right on their very first outing. The band’s seventh release, Full Tilt, adheres to the same it-ain’t-broke formula – hoarsely shouted vocals and stinging slide guitar atop a relentlessly driving beat. But when it’s done this well, with such infectious energy and unbridled enthusiasm, the results remain fresh and vital indeed.
Electric blues is all about the groove, and few outfits lay down as solid a base as Ed’s Blues Imperials. Bassist James ‘Pookie’ Young (Imperials co-founder and Ed’s half-brother), drummer Kelly Littleton, and rhythm guitarist Michael Garrett provide the firmest of foundations for Williams’ searing slide work, negotiating the tricky territory between impeccably tight and joyously loose with easy-going aplomb.
Lil’ Ed (a nephew of seminal slide guitarist J. B. Hutto) plays his blues strictly for the party, with raw power and an in-your-face attitude, though invariably with good humor and an ever-present smile. From the opener, a furious “Hold That Train” through the frantic “Take Five” that bookends the celebration, Ed and the boys approach everything with no holds barred and the pedal to the medal all the way. Subtle it’s not, and yes, most of it sounds familiar – although the majority are originals courtesy of Ed and his partner Pam – but with basic blues a near-perfect form, why mess with success?
Variety comes in the form of funk (“Housekeeping Job,” Woman Take A Bow”) and a few slow grinders (“Check My Baby’s Oil,” “Life Got In The Way,” “Every Man Needs A Good Woman”), but for the most part it’s shuffles and boogies at – literally – full tilt. Horns augment a few tracks, though they’re not really necessary; Ed’s not the type to leave a great deal of space, anyway, and Mr. Garrett’s busy rhythm work takes care of what’s there.
If you’re familiar with Lil’ Ed’s output, you’ll know exactly what to expect, and this one’s easily the equal of any of his previous releases. If you haven’t yet encountered the diminutive dynamo and his brand of musical mayhem, this would be an ideal introduction. Either way – everyone should have at least a lil’ Ed in their collection …!
By John Taylor.
**
Slide guitarist Lil’ Ed Williams & the Blues Imperials bring the energy of live performance to their sixth Alligator release Full Tilt.The highlights on this disc tend to reflect that of the album’s title,especially the spirited cover versions of the Contours’ “First I Look at the Purse,” and Hound Dog Taylor’s “Take Five,” along with the originals “Hold That Train,” “Candy Sweet,” and “My Baby Moves Me.” Lil’ Ed’s raucous guitar chops are at center stage on those tracks and the additional backing from horn players Eddie McKinley and David Basinger and pianist/organist Johnny Iguana add some extra kick. There are a few lukewarm tracks that are a bit too rote and, unfortunately, bring down the overall good-time party appeal of this disc. Still, any fan of Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, or electric modern blues in general, will want to add this to their collection.
By Al Campbell.
**
Lil’ Ed- Guitar, Vocals
David Basinger- Baritone Sax
Michael Garrett- Guitar, Background Vocals
Johnny ”Fingers” Iguana- Organ, Piano
Eddie McKinley- Tenor Sax
James “Pookie” Young- Bass, Background Vocals
Kelly Littleton- Drums
**
01. Hold That 3:59
02. Housekeeping 3:50
03. Don’t Call Me 3:07
04. Check My Baby’s Oil 5:34
05. First I Look at the Purse 3:24
06. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore 3:55
07. Life Got in the Way 7:05
08. Candy Sweet 2:09
09. Woman, Take a Bow 4:03
10. My Baby Moves Me 4:09
11. Dying to Live 5:40
12. Open Invitation 2:59
13. Every Man Needs a Good Woman Young 5:47
14. Take Five 3:18
**


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