CD Review – Lil’ Ed & Blues Imperials “Jump Start”
Raised on the hard-charging blues of Chicago slide guitar legend uncle J. B . Hutto, Lil’ Ed Williams has been laying down his own blistering blues licks with the same lineup for the last 25 years, including half-brother Pookie Young, who’s been the band’s bassist since their ’75 debut. Although Williams doesn’t hop around onstage like he used to and the only back bends he does these days are to get the kinks out, not show off in a club, his sound is still as strong as ever.
The guitarist comes out slippin’ an slidin’ with “If You Were Mine,” raucous, hard-edged, window-rattling Chicago blues. His ringing tone owes a lot to Elmore James, sounding like Williams is trying to push the slide right through the fretboard.
One of Williams’ many strengths is his ability to capture the fun and spontaneity of his live shows in his studio work. He always sounds as if he’s playing for an audience standing right in front of him, soaking up the energy and throwing it right back. All of the songs save one are originals, most written with wife Pam. The only cover is of uncle J.B’s “If You Change Your Mind,” a slow blues with an Elmore feel like “The Sky Is Cryin’.” It’s a slippery hymn, a shout- out of praise and thanks to a devoted companion for sticking by him.
Although his slide playing is serious business, Williams’ lyrics show a great sense of humor. “Jump Right In” sounds like ’30s double entendre that Louis Jordan might have recorded. Set back when he was in high school, a young, virginal Lil’ Ed learns how to “swim” with a girl who invite him to jump into her deep end and work on his stroke. “Opportunity knocked, but the door was locked,” he laments on “Born Loser,” his guitar boiling away in the background.“Musical Mechanical Electrical Man” boasts to his beloved that he’s a jack of all trades equally equipped to fix her ‘lectric, tune up her car and keep her happy by singing her a song when she’s in misery.
That song pretty much sums up Williams’ career; a hands-on, blue collar guy who’s equally at home solving problems under the hood or in the basement as he is on stage entertaining a room full of strangers who’ll be fanatical fans by the show’s end. Don’t let the title mislead you. Lil’ Ed doesn’t need a jump start- his motor has been running strong for nearly four decades, and as this latest release proves, it still doesn’t skip a beat.