Lilí Ed and the Blues Imperials

Lilí Ed and the Blues Imperials
Full Tilt

Alligator Records ALCD 4926

By Georgetown Fats
January 2009

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After recently receiving Full Tilt in the mail, I am going to have to rethink my “devout agnostic” stance on religion. From the opening riff of “Hold That Train,” the first track on Full Tilt, it is clear there is a higher power in play, and this higher power cares for me.

As the nephew of Chicago slide guitar legend J.B. Hutto, Lilí Ed Williams proves to have inherited his uncleís house rocking chops. In front of his bombastic trio, The Blues Imperials (Mike Garret on guitar, James Pookie Young on bass, and drummer Kelly Littleton) have taken house-rocking music to the masses for 20 years. The material on Full Tilt, mostly penned by Williams and his wife, is the ultimate in happy mood music.

Even songs about not having enough money, such as the second track “Housekeeping Job;” and the frustration with calls from creditors in the third track titled “Donít Call Me,” the high energy house-rocking music forces any listener to get up and move.

Not only does Full Tilt have the energy of a live recording, it also seems every last detail had been laid out to mimic one of Lilí Ed & The Blues Imperials live sets. The tempo for “Check My Babyís Oil” finally comes down from the frantic pace of the first three tracks. The song is loaded with sophomoric sexual innuendo, but from a front man who prides himself on putting on a show (Lilí Ed is rumored to be able to back flip while playing his guitar and wearing a fez) the tune fits in perfectly, and gives the listener a chance to catch their breath.

Paying homage to Smokey Robinson, the disk includes a cover of the Robinson and Robert Rogers penned track “At First I look At The Purse.” From the opening riff, this old classic is given a raucous treatment. The shuffle feel invites visions of Lilí Ed closing out a night at Legends or Rosaís - walking down a length of tables while deftly avoiding the drinks strewn about.

As part of Alligator Records, a label founded to assure Hound Dog Taylor music would be recorded, what is probably most impressive and important about Lilí Ed & The Blues Imperials is that label president Bruce Iglauer did not mandate they just merely mimic Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. Though the bombastic shuffles and foot stomping feels are similar, Williamsí voice is his own and the Blues Imperials lay down rock solid timing not often associated with the Houserockers.

Probably one of the best musical illustrations of Lilí Ed & The Blues Imperials is their cover of Hound Dog Taylorís “Take Five.” Instead of just duplicating a classic Hound Dog Taylor track, they keep all the energy of the original track while keeping the rock steady time.

Of the 14 tracks on the disk, it is tough to point out just a few highlights. Thereís not a weak track on the whole disk. Twenty three years ago, while trying to find bands for an anthology of younger Chicago blues musicians, Iglauer struck gold by finding Lilí Ed & The Blues Imperials.

Although they are older now, it is hard to imagine Lilí Ed & The Blues Imperials ever abandoning their Full Tilt approach to music.

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