Full Tilt

  • 2008
  • Full Tilt
  • Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials
  • Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials


Ed Williams, nephew of eminent slide guitarist J.B. Hutto, has been a mainstay of rollicking Chicago blues for over 30 years. His current band has been intact for over 20 years, and the principals play as an impressive unit. Other than Magic Slim and the Teardrops, there is no band that can approach them as premier purveyors of down-and-dirty, danceable, Chicago-style electric party blues. The band has been nominated repeatedly by the Blues Foundation for the Blues Music Award as Band of the Year, and deservedly won the honor in 2007. This album is their follow-up to the lauded 2006 release, “Rattleshake.” The quality remains high.

The first song is “Hold That Train.” An infectious guitar riff is joined almost immediately by Lil’ Ed’s pulsating slide lead, and we’re off! For the listener, it’s advisable to grab a handstrap and hold on for dear life. Lil’ Ed and his band are back, and they hold nothing back. If you’re not dancing 30 seconds into this record, your legs or your ears need a tune-up.

Eleven of the 14 songs are penned by Lil’ Ed. Of the covers, “First I Look at the Purse” is a cynically amusing take on mercenary motivation outweighing amorous ardor, and “Take Five” by Hound Dog Taylor is a worthy driving finale to the set. “Check My Baby’s Oil” opens with a guitar riff reminiscent of the Eagles’s “Witchy Woman,” represents another song in the pantheon of salacious automobile sex metaphor tunes, and is not subtle in its lament that “somebody else is sticking his dipstick in my baby’s oil pan.” Well, we don’t listen to the blues for its literary sophistication.

For me, ironically, the high points of the album are its several slower tunes. “Life Got in the Way” is a long work-out featuring Lil’ Ed’s vocal and some Elmore James-like slide, and “Woman, Take a Bow” is tastefully abetted by tenor and baritone sax. “Every Man Needs a Good Woman,” penned by Blues Imperials bass player James Young, Lil’ Ed’s half-brother, is a true meandering blues, and leads to the rousing closer “Take Five.”

Lil’ Ed’s voice, while limited in range and expressiveness, are powerful and appropriate to the genre. His slide prowess is admirable, and the band is a cohesive force.

While not quite up to the eminence of “Rattleshake,” “Full Tilt” is true to its name and a worthy addition to Lil’ Ed’s catalogue.

[This review initially appeared on the BluesWax Web site.]