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Earwig Music Company, Inc.
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Chicago, IL 60645
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This new recording features the rare combination of guitarist Lil Ed and bassist Willie Kent
, both renowned on the Chicago blues scene for the energy, tightness, and durability of their distinctive West Side sounds. Lil Ed inherited the mantle of his uncle and mentor, J.B. Hutto, and absorbed the style of his idol Elmore James to carry on the tradition of raw, electric style slide guitar, wide-mouth vocals, and flamboyant stage antics.
Willie Kent was been a mainstay of the Windy City club scene for forty years, known for his tight, rock-solid band, his deep blues vocals, and bass, Lil Ed and keyboardists Allen Bates used to sit in with Willie and the other musicians on this record - fleet-fingered guitarist Eddie C. Campbell and drummer Cleotha Williams aka Baldhead Pete.
This record features a slew of previously unrecorded tunes by Ed and Willie, some lesser-known chestnuts from their influences, Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, and Elmore, and some Chicago soul thrown in for good measure.
"... an album of pure authentic Chicago Blues ... a potent combination of veteran talent. Muddy and Wolf would approve of this one ... This may be the best Chicago blues recording of 1999..." -Real Blues
WILLIE KENT BIO
Willie Kent recorded as a bassist and lead vocalist, sharing half an album with Lil' Ed Williams on the Earwig CD Who's Been Talking (4941). Willie also played bass on Lousiana Red's Earwig CDs Millennium Blues (4943) and Driftin' (4947).
The preeminent Chicago blues bassist of the postwar era, Willie Kent was the city's last surviving link to the Mississippi Delta tradition, backing a who's who of immortals including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Junior Parker as well as fronting his own long-running band, the Gents.
Born in Inverness, Mississippi, on February 24, 1936, Kent was the product of a sharecropping family, and was enlisted to pick cotton at the age of six. While local musician Dewitt Munson afforded his first exposure to the blues, as a teen he began dialing in Helena, Arkansas,' influential radio station KFFA, where the King Biscuit Time broadcast served as his introduction to formative influences, including Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk.
By age 11, Kent was a surreptitious fixture at the Highway 61 club the Harlem Inn, catching acts headlined by Howlin' Wolf and Ike Turner. Two years later, he left home for Memphis, and after a brief tenure at a Florida gas station, he migrated to Chicago at the age of 16. There Kent bought his first guitar, which he loaned to musician Willie Hudson in exchange for lessons.
In 1959, he joined Hudson's band Ralph & the Red Tops as a chauffeur, occasionally appearing on stage as a vocalist. Whenever Hudson's bassist brother showed up for a gig too drunk to perform, Kent was summoned as his replacement, eventually taking over the position for good. Upon joining Little Milton's band in 1961, Kent's notoriety grew, and he became a steady presence at Kansas City Red's legendary "Blue Monday" parties.
Kent was renowned as much for his talent as for his professionalism, and he regularly sat in with greats spanning from Muddy Waters to Little Walter. After leaving Little Milton, he tenured with Arthur Stallworth & the Chicago Playboys as the 1960s came to a close, followed by stints in support of Hip Linkchain and Jimmy Dawkins.
After returning from a European tour, Dawkins relinquished his headlining gig at the West Side blues club Ma Bea's Lounge to Kent, who for the first time assembled his own band, Sugar Bear & the Beehives, with guitarist Willie James Lyons and drummer Robert Plunkett. Ma Bea's would serve as the setting for Kent's debut LP, 1975's live release Ghetto, and remained his home for over six years.
In 1982, he returned to sideman duties, joining Eddie Taylor and contributing to his acclaimed 1985 swan song "Bad Boy." After Taylor died that Christmas, Kent recruited his guitarist Johnny B. Moore and drummer Tim Taylor to form Willie Kent & the Gents: as their fellow bluesmen adopted an increasingly slick sensibility inspired by commercial R&B, the Gents championed the classic Delta 12-bar tradition, emerging as a favorite of blues purists at home and abroad.
After a series of heart ailments forced Kent to undergo triple bypass surgery in 1989, he spent his recovery examining his life and career, finally abandoning his longtime trucking gig in favor of pursuing music full-time. I'm What You Need, his first solo LP in 14 years, soon followed on the Big Boy label and proved the first in a flurry of releases that next included his Delmark debut, Ain't It Nice, which earned the Library of Congress Award for Best Folk/Blues Album of 1991.
Kent also signed to the Austrian label Wolf for a pair of LPs, 1991's King of Chicago's West Side Blues and Live at B.L.U.E.S. in Chicago. With so many new records to his credit, it was inevitable that Kent finally earned the attention of blues fans and critics across the globe, and in 1995, he won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Blues Instrumentalist, Bass.
Two years later, he earned the award again, and went on to claim the prize in nine consecutive years. Kent also notched five consecutive Most Outstanding Blues Musician, Bass honors from the magazine Living Blues, and with 1998's Delmark release Make Room for the Blues took home Chicago's Album of the Year prize. Willie was an outstanding blues vocalist, with intense emotion.
In early 2005, Kent was diagnosed with cancer, but continued his busy live schedule in spite of chemotherapy treatments. He lost his battle with the disease on March 2, 2006, just a week past his 70th birthday.
-Written by Jason Ankeny
LIL' ED WILLIAMS BIO
Diminutive nicknames are common enough on the Chicago blues scene and in the case of Lil' Ed Williams the "little" is even shrunken down. This hard-driving guitarist and vocalist is nonetheless a formidable presence in the former genre circa the new millennium and events such as his 2007 Rattleshake tour and album. By then Williams had led his Blues Imperials for more than 25 years off and on, inviting comparisons to the kick-**** blues-rock of Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers. The "Lil'" fellow has a connection both stylistic and ancestral with guitarist J.B. Hutto, a uniquely rough-hewn performer in his own right. Hutto would certainly have been proud to see his nephew go from working in a car wash to teaching Conan O'Brien how to play the blues in a skit on national television.
Family connections continue in the band itself: bassist James "Pookie" Young is Williams' half-brother. They began playing together as children. Williams at 12 was already fairly good on guitar, drums, and bass. Hutto offered plenty of guidance to both Williams and Young; in 1975 the semi-siblings formed the first version of the Blues Imperials. They made six dollars on their first gig. Upward momentum on the gig ladder was stimulated in part by a bite some ten years later from an Alligator, as in the indie Chicago blues record label. Williams and band came in to cut a pair of compilation tracks and wound up tracking a total of 30 songs, most of which were released on the 1986 Roughhousin'.
-Written by Eugene Chadbourne
Lil' Ed Williams and Willie Kent - Who's Been Talking
Release Date November 10, 1998
This record features a slew of previously unrecorded tunes written by Lil' Ed and Willie Kent, plus some lesser-known chestnuts from their influences, Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James, and some Chicago soul thrown in for good measure. On the Willie Kent vocal tracks Eddie C. Campbell plays lead guitar and Lil’ Ed plays rhythm, and on Ed’s vocal tracks he plays lead while Eddie C. plays rhythm guitar. The much in-demand session keyboardist Allen Batts plays acoustic piano and Hammond organ, and Cleotha “Bald Head Pete” Williams plays drums. Willie Kent plays bass on all tracks. This is some of the most passionate singing on record by Willie Kent, way too under-recognized as a vocalist.
“An album of pure authentic Chicago blues…a potent combination of veteran talent. Muddy and Wolf would approve of this one.” – Real Blues
Produced by Michael Robert Frank
© P 1998 Earwig Music Company, Inc.
Willie Kent - bass on all tracks, vocals on tracks 1,4,5,6,9,11
Lil Ed Williams - rhythm guitar on tracks 1,4,5,6,9,11, lead guitar and vocals on tracks 2,7,8,10,12
Eddie C. Campbell - lead guitar on tracks 1,4,5,6,9,11, rhythm guitar on tracks 2,7,8,10,12
Allen Batts - acoustic piano, Hammond B3 organ on all tracks
Cleotha "Baldhead Pete" Williams - drums on all tracks
Recorded June 23 & 24, 1998 and mixed by Paul Serrano, Delmark Recording Studio
Edited and mastered by Jim Godsey, Streeterville Studios; Assistant engineering by Jonathan "J.B." Gilmore
Photography: Chuck Winans - front cover; James Fraher - back cover
Graphic design by Terran Doehrer, Earth Star Graphics, Evanston, Illinois
1.Who's Been Talking 3:13
3.Bobby's Rock 4:05
4.As The Years Go Passing By 4:50
5.My Bleeding Heart 4:49
6.The Ghetto 4:34
7.Newspaper Blues 4:35
8.Going Shopping 5:30
9.I Wanna Get Married 5:06
10.Your Love Is So Strong 3:43
11.My Life, My Love 3:26
12.Bird Nest On The Ground 3:44
Writers and publishers on tracks:
1 Chester Burnett, Arc Music Corp.
3 Elmore James, Arc Music Corp.
4 Don Robey, MCA, with additional music, lyrics and arrangement by Willie Kent
5 Elmore James, Marshall Sehorn, Arc Music Corp./Rhinelander Music. Inc.
6 Donny Hathaway, Leroy Hudson APRS/Don-Pow Music
7 J.B. Hutto, exact title and publisher unknown
12 Monk Higgins, Maurice Dollison, Arc Music Corp.
9,11 Willie Kent, Earwig Music, administered by BMG Music
2,8,10 Lil Ed Williams, Earwig Music, administered by BMG Music