Elmore Magazine:
“Raw as it gets,
real deal Chicago blues”

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.

By Jim Hynes. Read the full review in Elmore Magazine


No Depression: “The music as nimble as ever, as much fun to hear as it is to see”

“I call it gut-bucket blues,” guitarist Lil’ Ed Williams says of his hard-driving Chicago blues sound, “’cause it gets down in the gut and makes you move around.” Nephew of the legendary slide guitar bluesman J.B. Hutto, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, boasting the same lineup for 27 years, have been tearing it up with Alligator records trademark house- rocking vigor since they were signed to the label in 1986, but a version of the band had been together a decade prior to that.

Williams literally grew up in Chicago blues clubs, Uncle J.B. painting a mascara mustache on him, topping it off with a big floppy hat and a trench coat for added disguise to sneak him in clubs as underage musician. The tutelage by his uncle created a slide style like Hutto’s Elmore James-influenced sound.

Calling their latest release The Big Sound is no hype. Ed and the Imperials live as large in the studio as they do in person. That tradition started on Ed’s ’86 Alligator debut, Roughousin’, when the naïve artist treated the recording session like he was in a blues club playing to an audience. Egged on by cheering producers, staff and anybody else Alligator founder Bruce Iglauer could round up and pack in the studio, Taylor cut his first record in two hours, laying down 30 songs. He takes it a little slower these days, but that initial energy and excitement is still palpable.

Even a bucolic sounding title like “Raining in Paris” is a raucous vehicle for Ed’s slippery, gut-bucket slide work that recalls Hound Dog Taylor’s rattly kitchen table leg slide sound. All but two of the songs are originals, written solo or with wife Pam. The two covers are Hutto’s, “Shy Voice”, another tune whose title belies its bombastic rattle and hum, like Hound Dog on the loose again with that flyin’ kitchen table leg, and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” which is more like Elmore James spliced in with some Albert King and a healthy dollop of reverb laid on for good measure.

But Ed’s no clone. His own stuff rocks and rattles and hums just as hard as his uncle’s, especially on done home vittle anthems like “I Like My Hot Sauce Cold.” As demonstrated on previous outings like ’06’s “Icicles in My Meat Loaf,” Ed’s kinda picky about his ingestibles. “I like my bar-b-q warm and my hot sauce cold, I like it scrumtily delicious,” Ed tells his server, punctuating his remarks with some blistering slide.

In his hands even a shuffle like “Green Light Groove” gets hustled along at a frenetic pace, clanging and banging like a crazed chef hurling pots and pans across the kitchen.

Its a great performance, just like the one you’ll see when he comes to your town. Age, maturity, and common sense prohibit him from doing the back bends he used to pull off, trademark fez nearly touching the floor, but the music is still as nimble as ever, as much fun to hear as it is to see.

By Grand Britt. Read his full review on No Depression


Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials to release new album on September 23

Alligator Records has set a September 23 release date for The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, the new CD from one of Chicago’s most iconic blues bands. Mixing smoking slide guitar boogies and raw-boned shuffles with the deepest slow-burners, Lil’ Ed Williams and his Blues Imperials —bassist (and Ed’s half-brother) James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton— deliver gloriously riotous, rollicking and intensely emotional blues.

Currently celebrating 27 history-making years together, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials ply their musical talents with skills that have been honed to a razor’s edge. In 2013, the band was awarded the Living Blues Critics’ and Readers’ Awards for Best Live Performer. The band won this same distinction in the 2012 and 2011 Living Blues Critics’ Poll. The group won the coveted 2009 Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year, the same honor they received in 2007. The Chicago Sun-Times says, “Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are the hottest purveyors of bottleneck boogie to come out of Chicago since Hound Dog Taylor.”

The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials is musically electrifying, emotionally intense and downright fun. It features Lil’ Ed Williams’ incendiary guitar playing and soulful, passionate singing, with the ragged-but-right Blues Imperials cooking like mad alongside him. Produced by Williams and Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, it is a tour-de-force of authentic, deeply rooted Chicago blues. Williams wrote or co-wrote all but two of album’s 14 songs (those two being written by Lil’ Ed’s legendary uncle, Chicago slide guitar king and master songwriter J.B. Hutto). The Chicago Reader says the band’s music “is a soundtrack for dancing and celebration infused with a sense of hard-won survival. Williams attacks his lyrics like he attacks his guitar: with bare-bones intensity that makes each word sound like a matter of life or death.”

Born in Chicago on April 8, 1955, in the heart of Chicago’s tough West Side, Ed grew up surrounded by music. He was playing guitar, then drums and bass, by the time he was 12. Growing up, Ed and his half-brother Pookie received lessons and support from their famous uncle, who taught the boys how to feel, and not just play, the blues. “J.B. taught me everything I know,” says Ed. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

Adding to the legend is Ed’s storybook rise, taking him from working at Chicago’s Red Carpet Car Wash to entertaining thousands of fans all over the world. A two-song recording session for Alligator in 1985 quickly turned into an on-the-spot full album contract (and 28 more songs) when the band floored Alligator president Bruce Iglauer with their raw and raucous sound. Twelve of those songs became the band’s debut album, Roughhousin’, released in September of 1986.

Since then, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials have toured virtually non-stop, have been celebrated by press and radio, and have earned new fans — known internationally as “Ed Heads” — with every performance. They have even made multiple appearances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. According to The Chicago Tribune, “Williams represents one of the few remaining authentic links to pure Chicago blues.”

Live, Lil’ Ed & 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. Garrett’s risk-taking rhythm guitar work and Littleton’s unpredictable, old school drumming perfectly complement Lil’ Ed’s and Pookie’s rambunctious playing. Their energetic and spontaneous live show remains legendary among blues fans worldwide.

They have played the Chicago Blues Festival multiple times, and have appeared at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, The San Diego Blues Festival, The Pennsylvania Blues Festival and dozens of other festivals around the country. Satisfying worldwide demand, they have performed at festivals in Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Japan, Australia, India, Turkey and Panama.

With The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials (the group’s ninth Alligator release) the band continues to bring their blistering Chicago blues to “Ed Heads” new and old. After almost three decades, Lil’ Ed, Pookie, Mike and Kelly have seen sports stars and presidents, musical fads and fashion trends come and go. Meanwhile, their fiery music has more than stood the test of time. “We’re not band members,” says Williams, “we’re family, and families stay together.” Night after night, gig after riotous gig, the musical family called Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials bring their big, dynamic sound to fans across the country and around the world.

Read the press release on Alligator Records


Soul Bag: “Artistic integrity”

© J-M Rock’n Blues

Depuis le temps qu’il sillonne les routes du blues, on a appris à connaître le petit bonhomme au fez à paillettes. Et même s’il déroule la même histoire depuis des lustres, il serait vain de vouloir y résister. Justement parce que cette façon immuable de balancer son Chicago blues d’un autre temps est la meilleure preuve de son intégrité artistique. L’héritage de tonton J.B. Hutto se perpétue chaque soir au travers de sa slide acérée et bouillonnante. Et tant pis si parfois, ça coince un peu, on ne s’arrête pas aux détails dans le feu de l’action. On a appris ça depuis Hound Dog Taylor.

By Jacques Périn, after Lil’Ed & The Blues Imperials’ performance at the prestigious New Morning, in Paris. Read the full story (in French) and see all the photos in French magazine Soul Bag.