Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

January 11, 2013

Lil’ Ed and Blues Imperials at Turtle Creek

WILLIAMSBURG — Get ready for what the Chicago Sun Times called "a bazooka assault of foot-stompin' blues and slow-burnin' knee-bucklers."

Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials play Saturday night at Turtle Creek Casino Level 3 Lounge to celebrate the release of their new CD, "Jump Start." The high-energy blues band performed at Turtle Creek a few years ago during the outdoor blues festival, said Tommy Rioux, nightclub and beverage manager for Turtle Creek.

"It's going to be a house-rockin' good time," he said. "It's not only fun music to listen to, but it's hard to stay seated as every song makes you want to dance."

Lil' Ed Williams is the nephew of the Chicago slide guitarist, songwriter and recording artist J.B. Hutto, who died in 1983 and was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1985. The Chicago Tribune has called Williams "one of the few remaining authentic links to pure Chicago Blues." Other reviewers describe him as a man who can make a guitar weep, snarl, howl and ring.

Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials — bassist James "Pookie" Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton — have played together 24 years since signing with Alligator Records in 1986.

Born in Chicago on April 8, 1955, Ed grew up surrounded by music and was playing guitar, drums and bass by the time he was 12. Ed and Pookie received lessons and support from Hutto, who was influenced by the bombastic style of legendary Elmore James, often called the "king of the slide guitar."

"J.B. taught me everything I know," Ed said in an Alligator Records press release. "I wouldn't be where I am today without him."

The group won the Blues Foundation's Band of the Year Music Award in 2007 and 2009. It recently received the 2012 "Living Blues Readers' Award for Best Live Performer."

Lil' Ed, usually wearing a fez in performances, often breaks out in back-bends and toe walks. He wrote or cowrote 13 of the new CDs 14 songs, a wild mix of slide guitar boogies, raw-boned Chicago shuffles, rhythm guitar work, old-school drumming and minor-key ballads.

Ed, Pookie and the band were discovered by Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer, who was looking for local talent in the mid-1980s. At the time, Ed worked 10 hours a day as a car wash buffer to help pay the bills and Pookie drove a school bus.

"They had a good reputation," Iglauer said in the press release. "I had only seen them live once or twice and I knew Ed was a hot slide player, but I had no idea what he and the band were really capable (of)."

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