Black Market III’s new release Songs That Shake The Cage features Scottie Blinn powering through an album of mostly covers with a gritty growl, creating a rough and tumble landscape for his three piece band to ride rough shod over. Usually an album of covers is enough to stop me from giving it more than a listen, but “Mad Dog” Blinn grabs these songs by the throat and chokes the truth out of them.
The instrumental “Rumble” kicks off the record; it’s a nice warm up for Scottie’s guitar, Roxy Coverdale’ s bass, and Haley Allen’s drums to slowly get to know each other. With the second song “If I Can Hold,” the band cuts loose and Blinn finds his comfort zone, flashing crunchy ZZ Top-ish licks while belting out one of the best standout vocals on the record.
Social Distortion front man Mike Ness’ penned tune “All I Can Do Is Cry” follows, with Blinn slowing down the pace from the original, taking ownership of the song with his hard-hitting, road-seasoned vocals. By the time the fourth track rolls around, Black Market III is obviously feeling feisty as they roll the dice on a Tom Waits cover. Blinn puts a nice spin on the Waits tune by pulling at the lyrics with a back alley whisper, building on the tension before dropping some of the finest solos on the record. With his blues chops pronounced, there’s no doubt Mad Dog can play. He really takes it to task on “Hoist the Rag,” obviously feeling it when covering one of his favorites. The band’s love for Mr. Waits is evermore evident (they named themselves after the Waits number “Black Market Baby”) as they go after another one of his tunes “Lucinda/Ain’t Going To The Well” a few songs later. Again, the pace is slowed as they walk through this twisted Tom tale with a swagger and confidence that works.
About halfway through the record, bass player Roxy Coverdale takes a pass at the The Dead Weather song “Hang You From The Heavens.” As the band digs in with a head-banging stomp, Coverdale wails “I like to grab you by the hair / And hang you from the heavens!” Kind of sums up the record–it’s brass and fully loaded with ballsy, greasy blues and some kick ass rock and roll thrown in to boot.
More personal takes on a few other covers follow, filling out the record and spotlighting the three piece swagger. There’s the Lead Belly song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and even the spiritual from before the Civil War “O Mary Don’t You Weep.” Yet, alongside the covers, Blinn also cooks up a handful of originals. With the instrumental “Psych Ward,” he lights up a surf/punk scorcher, letting his fingers do the talking. On “All of Your Love,” he trades vocals with Coverdale, unleashing another flurry of guitar bravado that’s not soon to be forgotten.
And that’s why this album works so well. Songs That Shake The Cage is fist full of obscure covers with sprinkling of hard-hitting originals, all heated up and served down ‘n’ dirty, with a fire and passion you can taste in each track.