LIL ED AND THE BLUES IMPERIALS
Hold That Train, Housekeeping Job, Don't Call Me, Check My Baby's Oil, First I Look At The Purse, Love Don't Live Here Anymore, Life Got In The Way, Candy Sweet, Woman Take A Bow, My Baby Moves Me, Dying To Live, Open Invitation, Every Man Needs A Good Woman, Take Five.
You think the contemporary blues scene is in the doldrums? Wait till you hear this!
Big boss guitar man Lil' Ed Williams, drummer Kelly Littleton, bassist Pookie Young and guitarist Michael Garrett have been tearing up the joint together for the last twenty years - and their experience shows. They have to be the tightest blues band, black or white, on the scene today. I've been diggin' their Alligator CDs for who knows how long but I've never heard them sound better than on this new release.
The band grew up under the influence of J.B. Hutto and Hound Dog Taylor and since day one Lil' Ed's idea of a rockin' good night was to take centre stage, turn everything up to maximum and wreck the house. And that's just what he does on this great CD.
First, let's talk about the band. To just say Pookie Young and Kelly Littleton provide the back beat would be an understatement. Together they lay down the solid foundations for everything Ed has to throw at them. Pookie slams out bass notes with as much precision and hard-drive as any lead guitar man and Kelly Littleton, who in my opinion is the best blues drummer around today, simply works his nuts off as he cranks out the beat following every nuance of the song. Michael Garrett is the kind of guitar player every band prays for, he adds funky overlays to his rhythm guitar work with as much ease as when he smacks out joyful solos and full blown fills. Need proof? Check out the first solo on "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" and the intro to "My Baby Moves Me" and then call me if you think I'm wrong.
Now let's get to the indomitable Lil' Ed. He is incredible live and he makes no distinction between the stage and the studio. When Ed attacks a song the bugger receives no mercy! His full-on, top-volume, slide work is electrifying to say the very least and there's no doubt his vocals have got even better with age. This is a man who can holler out the blues with the very best and in his voice, you can hear every one of those relentless years on stage.
These boys go at it like a bunch of twenty year olds, throwing all their experience and musicality at the 14 cracking good songs they picked for this CD. There's nothing arty or sensitive about this lot. They're straight-forward, no-nonsense, blue-collar blues with good old-fashioned lyrics that make sense and, thanks to the full-blooded atomic drive of the band, every one of them could strip the floorboards.
Everything here sizzles - from the huge guitar sound on the storming "Hold That Train", the special funkiness of "Housekeeping Job" and Ed's no-truck-with-technology epic "Don't Call Me" to the doubtful double-entendre evident on "Check My Baby's Oil" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" which is hi heel sneakers on speed if I ever heard it.
Then there's the thrilling bottom string slide on the real big blues "My Baby Moves Me", the tons of powerful slide oozing out over "Dying to Love" and the absolute monster slow blues "Every Man Need a Good Woman". Ed plays some of the greatest guitar imaginable on this five and a half minute epic and the atmospheric 2am feel of the song is heightened by Ed's superb vocals. He's pissed off in love and wants the world to know it. It's simply a wonderful performance!
With all this enthusing, you must have worked out that this may well be my blues record of the year. You might just be right!
Review Date: September 2008