Lakeside bluesman Scottie Blinn captured lightning in a bottle last fall with his new band Black Market III and their sizzling debut, Songs That Shake the Cage. Equal parts growling vocals and full frontal guitar flash, it featured a lively blend of originals and blues and traditional covers. Since then the three have been busy playing (including a European tour), changing drummers (Gavin Glenn now hits the skins), and recording Black Roses. Blinn returns on guitar and vocals, with bassist/vocalist Roxy Coverdale, and the sound and approach remain much the same on the 10 tracks: stripped down power trio blues, with the spotlight on Blinn’s crisp six-string licks. The recording (by Blinn) conveys the band’s swagger well.
The three grind it out right away, with “When the Sun Goes Down,” a lumbering blues rocker setting the tone for the album: no-holds-barred riff rock. This keeps coming with the title track, with Blinn tearing into some early Billy Gibbons lead lines as he sings “Takin’ names and writin’ em in red/ Darkest cloud I’ve ever seen.” Both his guitar and the words convey bad intent. The first cover is “After Dark,” written by Tito Larriva, and as cool as it is to hear a tune by a guy from the house band in the “From Dusk Till Dawn” film canteen, it borrows enough melody lines from the Brill Building standard “On Broadway” that it drains some of the impact, though Blinn sings and plays with plenty of gusto.
“Tin Can” is another Blinn original and he’s cooking some dark mojo again, this time with an R&B feel, pushed by Glenn’s driving beat and snappy rhythm guitar. The next tune, “Comin’ at Ya” might be one trip to the same well too many, as it rocks hard but breaks no new ground in a set of songs with similar sound and structure. The following cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man” clicks on several levels as the Harvest classic gives the disc a change of pace and demonstrates the band’s range outside the blues box; plus, it’s never a bad idea to cover a Young song. “I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages,” next, transforms a bluegrass/gospel rave-up into a simple blues stomper that quotes some scripture and kicks some ass.
The disc wraps with two blues standards, dubbed an “after hours session” with a live-in-the-studio, hot mic vibe. Coverdale does a good turn as lead singer on “Keep on Lovin’ Me Baby,” and the Otis Rush shuffle smokes, with Blinn’s most inspired guitar shredding on the album. “Mean Old World” brings things to a quieter close, with Carl Sonny Leyland’s piano helping Blinn’s incisive Ronnie Earl-vibe blues scales establish the proper mood for nearly three minutes, before he steps in on lead vocal to declare that he has been driven to drink by a mean woman and treated “like a low-down slave.”
Black Roses is just the kind of blues rock that the fans of Black Market III expect: edgy and energetic, with no frills.