Lil' Ed Williams is a big blues booster. Wherever the veteran blues guitarist goes, he spreads the word of his beloved genre by delivering visceral guitar licks and singing his lil' heart out.
"I love it like you can't imagine," Williams said. "It's my passion. Always has been. There is nothing more that I enjoy than getting out there and playing before an audience. I get such a thrill out of it."
Williams, 55, who will perform Saturday at the Boulevard, is as blues-crazy as ever but thinks that's not enough — younger folks aren't connecting with the blues. It's not as if they're rejecting the sound Williams grew up with while coming of age in the blues capital of Chicago. Blues is just under the radar for much of the younger set.
"A lot of kids today have no idea what the blues is," Williams said. "That amazes me but that's the way it is. They just don't know it. When they hear it, many of them get it immediately. But the trick is to get them exposed to it, because once you hear the blues, no matter who you are, it gets under your skin. You can't help but love it. I love it when I see a blues player go all out."
That's how the diminutive vocalist-guitar hero lays it down. Williams, who performs in the tradition of Chicago bluesmen, jams out on extended guitar boogies and then reverses direction with shuffles.
"I can do it all," he said. "There's no limitations for me and the guitar. I can go to many different places with it. When people see me do what I do, they ask how I do it. I just work hard when I'm up there and I have some fun."
Williams doesn't do it alone. He is flanked by his potent and relentless Blues Imperials.
"It wouldn't be the same playing without them," he said. "They make it fun for me. That's the name of the game for me, fun. That's what a lot of young people don't understand. They think when you hear the word 'blues' that the music will bring you down. They don't get that the blues can be the most uplifting music you've ever heard. It's powerful music."
He thinks the blues will live on forever.
"Everyone might not know about the blues but enough people support it," Williams said. "Enough people get exposed to it and when they do, a lot of people just can't get enough of it, myself included."
If you go
lil' ed and the blues imperials
Where: The Boulevard, 900 George Washington Blvd.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
How much: $15 at the door