Ed & the Blues Imperials
Too many people only see and hear a novelty act when
it comes to Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. Ed’s
entertaining stage antics (sliding across the stage,
performing duckwalks and backbends, popping his
eyeballs out, etc) are memorable. However, the five
foot one inch entertainer possesses more talent than
a court jester.
Tilt is his seventh album for
Alligator Records. It features the same four core
band members who have been together for 20 years.
Combining honest vocals with searing slide guitar,
Williams is the J. B. Hutto of our generation. Kelly
Littleton gives the drums a workout and attains a
full and rich sound. The remaining Blues Imperials
include Mike Garrett (guitar) and Pookie Young
(bass). Guests include Eddie McKinley (sax) and
Johnny Iguana (keyboards).
Williams’ wife Pam began contributing songs on
Ed's 2002 album, Heads
Up. Out of the 14 songs here, they collaborated on
seven while Ed himself wrote four songs.
records consistently come overloaded with energy. On
Full Tilt, this is evident right from the opening
notes of the hard and hot rockin’ first track. Here,
Williams slides up and down his fretboard like a
slithering snake. It is one ass-kickin’ and
outlandish-sounding song. After that ferocious
onslaught, the listener can take a breath during the
mid-tempo Housekeeping Job. Although its vocals tell
a tale of destitution, more emotion comes from the
"Don’t Call Me" is a hard-blasting,
guitar-driven, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll song.
Here, the guitar lets loose like a car accelerating
from 0 to 60 miles per hour. Listen to the lyrics
and you’ll think Williams was the innovator behind
the “Do Not Call” list. The Contours’ classic "First
I Look At The Purse" is houserockin’ music that’s
performed in its purest and rawest forms. Chicago
blues slide guitar master Hound Dog Taylor – the
originator of Alligator’s Genuine Houserockin’ Music
– is honored on a wild cover of "Take Five."
Williams is equally proficient in delivering
pleasurable ballads in addition to raucous rockers.
"Check My Baby’s Oil" is a slow blues with clever and
fun lyrics. The song offers an automobile metaphor
on the age old “another mule been kickin’ in my
stall” scenario. "Life Got In The Way" allows you to
focus on the genius of Williams’ vast guitar skills,
which far too often go unnoticed. Here, Williams
delivers the most heartfelt vocals on the album. The
song is about being in love with a woman that you
can’t have. The protagonist is in love deep, and the
passion boils over during a stimulating guitar solo.
The minor key "Every Man Needs A Good Woman" is
another bittersweet melody with killer guitar that
cuts straight to where emotions enter your
bloodstream. The lyrics speak more of the same truth
that Ed preaches throughout the album. Slashing
slide guitar penetrates on "Love Don’t Live Here
The CD’s strongest song,
"Woman, Take A Bow," tells of
“Two lives … ruined now” by a no good two-timer.
While the rhythm is hypnotic, the guitar shears its
way into her core values. "Dying To Live" is another
song that tells of a stark reality. Musically, it
contains the same highlights as "Take A Bow." However,
the autobiographical lyrics merely hint at the
troubles that Lil’ Ed has faced and conquered.
Yes, some things are old, some things are borrowed,
and some things are new. The majority of songs
follow a similar blueprint, and too many end with
Williams shouting out, “1-2-3-4.” That being the
case, this CD still contains the same winning
formula as on his previous Alligator recordings. So
let Lil’ Ed rock your world into a Full Tilt.
--- Tim Holek