I first experienced the guitar virtuosity of Michael Dean Odin Pollock through some of his early work with the seminal Icelandic band Utangarðsmenn and their post-breakup incarnation Bodies. My friend Ingvar turned me on to both, and also pointed me towards Pollock’s brilliant folkish solo effort “Take Me Back” from 1981. Pollock has played with just about everyone, and while he has an impressive resume his most notable accomplishment is continuing to advance as a musician and remain relevant. And fortunately for us the newly released “3rd” is another step in the evolution of Mike Pollock.

Opening with the instrumental “Acension,” the album really kicks into gear with the second track, “Gratitude,” a song with an opening guitar riff that reminds me of a cross between Gusgus and Þeyr, but, you know, done on an acoustic guitar and accompanied by a basic background bass line and a washboard, with vocals that are more spoken word then sung, dripping with feeling. I think I’m going to like this album.

“3rd” has a minimalist blues rock feel. It’s not a bloated, overproduced album but something you’d see a couple of talented, mature musicians playing in some dive bar somewhere. The soulful guitar and train-whistle harmonica transport you to a dark, dingy place with sticky floors, watered down beer, and the smell of stale cigarette smoke. Pollock knows his guitar intimately, and Siggi’s mouth harp is pure American style blues, perhaps nowhere more so than on “Suitcase Blues” where the duo distill the pure essence of the hard living of the wandering man. “Traveler” too seems to transport you to a totally different time and place with it’s incessant beat and earthy vocals. But don’t think this is just a blues album, because it’s not – songs like “Love “ channel a mellow version of Half Japanese, a basic musical track overlaid with some vocals that seem to come from a different song entirely and speak out against the injustice of it all. The same is true of “Rumble Jungle,” a song driven by entirely percussion… at least for the first three minutes, before some crazy overdubbed vocals sneak in, followed by just a few hints of guitar before taking it back home under an oncoming wave of drums. And yes, “Love In A Dub” even channels some dub riddims.

“3rd” is a blues album, but it’s also much, much more. Pollock and Siggi Sig are to be commended for sticking their necks out, putting some new spins on an old, classic genre.

– Vinyl Lane Jeff