L'il Ed and the Blues Imperials

at Jim Porter's

By Michael Campbell

A less than capacity crowd who braved at wet Thursday night was rewarded with an enthusiastic performance of Chicago blues at tint Porter's on December 16. Playing blues standards and "a few selections from his latest Alligator release, What You See Is What You Get, L'il Ed Williams and his Blues Imperials delighted the audience with a blues guitar clinic.

Guest guitarist Dave Weld, a Blues Imperials alumnus for twelve years, now fronting his own Imperial Flames, initially seemed to portray a caricature of a really white guy out of place in a smooth Chicago blues band. His choppy and strangely un-syncopated rhythm guitar was delivered by means of tomahawk-like blows to the strings. And his vibrato? Dave's face took on the expression and intensity of a serial killer as he strangled note after note from his instrument. Oddly enough, this jagged intensity provided the perfect foil to Ed's more laid-back sophisticated style.

Not to be outdone, Ed applied his entire body to the act of vibrato, his upper body moving in counterpoint to the rocking of his semi-hollowbody guitar as though attached by a giant rubber band. The truly amazing aspect of Ed's playing was the seamless integration of slide and fretted guitar licks.

The ubiquitous slide, worn on his right pinkie, was employed only as needed, sometimes only for a couple of notes per song.

The warm EQ'd bass tones of James "Pookie" Young and empathic drumming from Kelly Littleton solidly anchored these guitar antics. From a fast country blues like "I Gotta Move," and applying a Muddy Waters vocal with echoes of Robert Johnson's lonesome picking to the venerable "Stormy Monday," Ed led his band professionally and enthusiastically all the way through the satisfying encore.