Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials Critic's Choice Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Dec. 19, 9:30 p.m. and Sat., Dec. 20, 10 p.m. 2008

With his unsubtle “house-rockin’” style, slide guitarist Lil’ Ed Williams has earned the enmity of a lot of purist-minded blues critics, but in some ways his approach is actually a return to roots: especially onstage, he strips the music of much of the existential freight it’s been saddled with by generations of intellectual revisionists, foregrounding instead its original function as a soundtrack for dancing and celebration and infusing it with a sometimes elusive but always palpable sense of hard-won survival. His recordings don’t always capture his full impact, but the latest, Full Tilt (Alligator), comes pretty close. Slide-seared rockers like “Don’t Call Me” and “Candy Sweet” are take-no-prisoners party anthems in the grand tradition, and Williams charges more serious material like “Dying to Live” with both passion and vulnerability, attacking his lyrics the way he attacks his guitar: with a bare-bones intensity that makes each word (and each note) sound like a matter of life or death. See also Saturday. —David Whiteis

Price: $15

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