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Li'l Ed and the Blues Imperials

With the Steepwater Band. Friday, October 15, at Wilbert's.

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For those who think of blues as a mostly "down" affair, there's a fivesome from Chicago that'd be only too happy to change your mind. A set or two from slide guitarist Li'l Ed Williams and his boys should provide enough jumpin', rockin', and ravin' to place the blues in a much more festive light.

And if you suddenly find yourself on the dance floor, it's likely that Li'l Ed duckwalked the invitation to your table himself. Perfectly personified in his own highly extroverted presence, Williams's stripped-down brand of blues, frequently compared to that of late slide-primitivist Hound Dog Taylor, is charged with an energy more often associated with rock and roll and edged with a bite that does its Windy City roots proud.

Nephew of the late Chicago slide-guitar master J.B. Hutto, Williams established himself, under his uncle's guidance, as a regular in the city's West Side blues clubs during the '70s and '80s -- a period during which Alligator Records prez Bruce Iglauer mined that same scene for his growing roster. The two connected, resulting in Li'l Ed's 1986 debut disc, Roughhousin'. His fifth for the label, 2002's Head's Up!, is stacked with driving tracks that are likely to power-up exponentially live. This is party blues.

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