Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials – Jump Start

January 01, 1970



Anybody who has ever seen Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials play
live knows that they have seen the real deal–blues greatness incarnate. Lil’ Ed
with his Fez and explosive live shows offers the blues as pure fun
entertainment. Hence the legion of “Ed-heads” around the world. But when you
listen to this band you are also hearing blues history. Ed Williams is one of
the last of a long line of incendiary West Side of Chicago slide guitar players
that stretches back to Hound Dog Taylor, to Ed’s own uncle and mentor – the
great J.B. Hutto – and then even beyond that to the immoral Elmore James.


Jump Start is the
eight album that Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials have done for the label that
discovered them, Alligator. And amazing enough, the band has been together and
touring the world for 24 years. Ed has one of the most distinctive slide guitar
sounds in the world, so you know this is his album instantly from the hard
driving guitar boogie of the opening track, “If You Were Mind.” And of course
there are the humorous lyrics of songs like “Musical Mechanical Electric Men” –
where Ed engages in the age old slide tradition of having a conversation with
his guitar – and “No Fast Food.” Both are destined to be crowd pleasers when
played live. And as to the call and response with a guitar, remember that when
W.C. Handy first heard a slide playing in the middle of the night in a train
station in Tutwiler, Mississippi in 1903 he noted how it sounded like the human


So this CD has all the marking of a good time Lil’Ed and the
Blues Imperials outing. But what makes this album great is that it shows how
Lil’ Ed is evolving as an artist and songwriter. He wrote or co-wrote 13 of the
14 songs, eight of them with his wife, Pam.


And this is very significant. Lil’ Ed could have taken the lazy
or easy way out and performed countless versions of the most famous riff in
slide guitar and blues history. Anybody and everybody who has slipped a slide
on their finger knows the crowd pleasing power of the “Dust My Broom” hook made
famous by Elmore James. Indeed, if there is any criticism of the recording
career of James is that he figured out a way to insert that moneymaking hook
into so many countless songs that he ended up being mostly remembered for that
one song. And who could blame him? Being a slide blues player in the world he
came from was about as economically perilous and insecure as being a freelance writer.


And quite significantly, a version of the hook does not
appear on Jump Start until the very
last song: the socially conscious “Moratorium on Hate.”  Jump
is a winner because it captures all the energy and fun of the band
live, but also showcases the growing depth of Lil’ Ed’s songwriting. And that
is obvious on slow burning blues like “Life is a Journey” as well as hard
rocking blues like “House of Cards” and the jazzy, risqué “Jump Right In.”


And the one song not written or co-written by Lil’ Ed?  Of course that is a song by his uncle, J.B.
Hutto, “If You Change Your Mind.” This song illustrates all that was great in
the Golden Age of Chicago Blues. Hutto, like Hound Dog Taylor, never got the
full appreciation they deserved during the vast majority of their lives playing
in little ghetto bars before working class black audiences for very little
money. But they were the real deal, true to the heart and soul of the blues.
Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials is the real deal today, keeping alive a great
tradition while pushing it deep into the new century. For those who think the blues
is dead, buy this CD. Better yet, go see Lil’ Ed play live and you will get
blues religion big time. Jump Start is
a must have album for all blues fans.


is a Journey,” “If You Mind,” “If You Change Your MindTOM CALLAHAN 





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