Jump Start

Several years ago I saw Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials put on one of the most energetic shows I’ve ever seen, and on this, the band’s eighth CD for Alligator, the pint-sized, fez-topped Chicago native and his quartet continue to play the kind of music that gave the label its “genuine, houserockin’ music” motto. Lil’ Ed Williams is the nephew of the late, legendary Chicago slide guitarist/wild man J. B. Hutto, and he has not only inherited his uncle’s taste in head gear but, more important, his slash-and-burn style of playing. Now 57, he shows no signs of stopping and rips it up on most of the disc’s 14 tracks, slowing down on only a handful of songs, one of them his uncle’s “If You Change Your Mind,” a slow, slide-searing plea to his woman to come back to him. Backed by guitarist Michael Garret, drummer Kelly Littleton and his half-brother “Pookie” Young on bass, Lil’ Ed (who wrote all the songs but one) shares the miseries of woman trouble (e.g., “Kick Me to the Curb”) as well as hope for the future in “Moratorium on Hate.” Among the highlights are such slide rave-ups as “Born Loser,” “Weatherman” and the slow, haunting “Life Is a Journey” (“Won’t you come go with me?”).