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Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials

Rattleshake (Alligator)

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When the blues came up to Chicago after WW II, the music may have urbanized, but it was never really civilized. The brash, raucous Delta sound fit right in with its new ghetto digs. The newfound amplification blasted forth from South and West Side bars with an attitude that challenges rockers even today. Bands with authentic ties to that time and place get harder and harder to find, and ones with the power and drive to knock your socks off are rarer still. It's part of what makes screamin' slide guitarist and balls-out blues shouter Lil' Ed Williams and his boys so special. They cook down-home boogie to the boiling point, stewing blues that'll raise the roof.

What's immediately impressive about Rattleshake, Ed's sixth release, is the sense of "live" excitement and edge that these studio tracks convey. Thanks to fine studio production, the fire the foursome typically generates on the bandstand translates nicely. The blue-collar blues that Williams picked up from his uncle and mentor, Chicago slide legend J.B. Hutto, is dosed here with rock energy and laced with Ed's idiosyncratic lyrics, as on the classic "Icicles in My Meatloaf." This just might be the best blues disc of the year.

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