Their 1986 album ROUGH HOUSIN’ on Alligator Records is more of a precursor that sets the stage. It comes straight out of the South and West side clubs but the lineup with Dave Weld on rhythm guitar and Louis Henderson on drums only lasted the one album. CHICKEN, GRAVY, & BISCUITS debuted the lineup of Michael Garrett on rhythm guitar and Kelly Littleton on drums which other than a break or two and the temporary addition of a sax player remains intact to this day.
CHICKEN, GRAVY, AND BISCUITS not only debuted the long standing lineup in also features several tunes that have also remained staples over the years starting with the title track which opens the album. Who can resist an uptempo jumpin’ Chicago shuffle ode to the joys of a fresh hot plate of chicken and biscuits covered in gravy? “Master Charge” was one of Albert Collins’ popular tunes and the Blues Imperials cement their touring buddy’s classic with their interpretation. “S.D. Jones”has also hung around. The ’s’ stands for sugar, you know the rest.
Lil’ Ed Williams & the Blues Imperials are one of the last of the old school Chicago Blues bands and their sound has remain unchanged through passing trends. The uptempo shuffles, simmering slow Blues, and the classic slide guitar from the last remnant of the source remain firmly grounded in the gritty Chicago clubs that spawned them. Their sound remains undiluted by Rock or Soul. CHICKEN, GRAVY, & BISCUITS is that sound announcing itself once and for all at the beginning. When the band kicks into “Face Like A Fish” or “20% Alcohol” you’re back in that funky club smoke hanging in the air so thick you can cut it with a dull knife. The real show stopper is reserved for the closing number, “Blues Imperial Theme”. Introducing the band one by one everybody gets a solo. Michael Garrett goes first, followed by a bass solo from James ‘Pookie’ Young that finds the typically reserved support player stretching out a bit, and finally Kelly Littleton.
What you hear is what you get. The album was recorded in two weeks which was considered an indulgence after the first being cut in a single day. No overdubs to fatten up the sound, what you hear on the album is exactly what you hear from the stage. Northeast Ohio residents can typically find them at least once a year at Music Box in Cleveland and Natalie’s in Columbus.