Cephas & Wiggins Lil’ Ed & Blues Imperials

These two discs perfectly illustrate the yin and yang of Alligator’s approach to the blues. John Cephas (guitar/vocals) and Phil Wiggins (harmonica) are prime exponents of Piedmont blues, an acoustic style that originated on the East Coast some 70 years ago. Cephas faithfully honors this fingerpicking tradition, a good example being Blind Boy Fuller’s “Three Ball Blues,” a song about going to a pawnshop, asking the owner what the balls represent and getting told, “Two to one, buddy, you ain’t gonna get your things back at all.” Pianist Ann Rabson (of the group Saffire) livens up a few tunes, one being Cephas’ “I Did Do Right,” his answer to the classic “Why Don’t You Do Right?” On the flipside, Lil’ Ed, a very energetic performer, is of the take-no-prisoners approach to the blues, ripping out flurries of notes on guitar. He inherited his style from his uncle, J.B. Hutto, and gives us a slide-guitar rave up of Hutto’s “That’s the Truth.” They also pay homage to slide guitar icon Elmore James. Ed’s got a batch of his own songs here, too—my favorite being “Icicles in My Meatloaf” about a dinner date gone wrong.