Lil' Ed & The
To capture the live excitement in the studio that a band generates at their gigs is not an easy task, but it seems Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials do it in their sleep. For the fifth time in as many tries they have done just that with their latest smoker of a release, Heads Up! (Alligator). If there is a chemical in the human body that produces joy, Lil' Ed seems to know how to stimulate it and get it flowing with his searing slide guitar, devilish smile and charismatic personality that transforms fluidly to his recordings.
Heads Up! is a typical Lil’ Ed album, made up of mostly high voltage boogying tunes about his life’s loves, such as the album’s opener and closer, “Woman In The Castle,” and “I Love My Baby.” Ed also cover his loss loves in “Never Miss Your Water” and “Black Night,” each hitting the ground running from the opening chords.
Blowing things sky high with what I think amounts to the album’s showpiece is “The Creeper,” on which Ed plucks, slides and wails his way full throttle up and down the fretboard, phrasing, accenting and chording in all the right places. “Four Leaf Clover” is a laid back number that features Mike Garrett stepping to the forefront for some tasty soloing, which he also does on the hard rocking “Empty House Tour.”
For anyone who is a computer widower, “Computer Girl” is sure to strike a nerve or two in you. If you’re an ‘Ed Head’ (such as myself), the instrumental “Ed’s Head Boogie” is dedicated to you.
The lineup of The Blues Imperials is the same as it has been for years, with the previously mentioned Mike Garrett on guitar, Ed’s brother James "Pookie" Young on bass and Kelly Littleton on drums. Paul Buschbacker sits in for one tune on rhythm guitar, and it’s my understanding that he is touring with the band for a three guitar attack that I personally can’t wait to see.
Lil' Ed Williams will never be considered a “great blues guitarist” by most listeners due to the rap that his style is lifted directly from Elmore James and his uncle J.B. Hutto. I think this is completely unfair to Ed, who displays time and again some very serious chops of his own.
If you have never caught these guys live, you owe it to yourself to do so, as they are as much fun as you can possibly have with your clothes on (insert sly grin and wink here). If you are one of the unfortunate few that have never heard this wonderfully energetic band on record before, then Heads Up! is highly recommended as a starting point from which you can work your way backwards. This is a fun record that is hard to stop playing.
Ed Heads the world over --- this one is definitely for you!
--- Steve Hinrichsen
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