Blueberries – Ripe for the pickin’
Things are busy around Otto Helmuth’s house in Lexington. The Blueberries’ vocalist/guitarist and his wife are expecting a baby “any minute.” They’ve picked up a new dog, a sweet stray who gets along well with everyone, and Otto’s at work on some last-second home repairs “before the baby gets here.”
Did I mention that Otto’s band has also released a hot new CD? The new, self-titled work, the band’s third CD in six and a half years together, is packed with thirteen power-pop/roots-rock tracks, all of the hummable, danceable sort Lexingtonians have come to expect of this trio.
For years, the Blueberries have been something of a local secret, entertaining audiences at various Central Kentucky venues and opening for a range of more widely-known touring acts. By now they’ve invested so much time and effort in performing and recording that Helmuth says they’re in it “for the long haul.”
That haul figures to only get longer and busier as more folks hear the new CD, which features a range of styles and sounds, from the western-tinged local hit “Middle Of The Night” to the slightly countrified Pink Floyd psychedelia of “Rest Now”. In between are songs that reflect some of the band’s more acknowledged influences: Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Big Star, and the Rolling Stones.
According to Helmuth, the Blueberries favor “simplicity, a simple sound, just enough but [still] there; you know, what Neil Young’s all about.” This simplicity is evident in the band’s makeup and philosophy. The basic lineup features Helmuth singing and playing guitar, with Chad Ward on bass and Andy Mason on drums, but they’ve been known in concert to exchange roles and play in various configurations.
Adding to the simple roots sound on the new CD is the fiddle and steel guitar work of Max Johnston, formerly of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco and now a member of Freakwater. Johnston’s work on the CD pushes the Blueberries’ musicianship to new levels and deftly complements Helmuth’s guitar and Ward’s bass.
In the opening line of “Shut Your Mouth”, Helmuth asks, “What’s the meaning of your subtle lines?” One might well ask the same of Helmuth’s deceptively simple lyrics: His words speak of everyday activities (drinking, partying, traveling) but suggest much more. When Helmuth sings, in “Genasol”, that he’s “sharpened it for hours,” he’s referring ostensibly to a knife, but he could also be talking about the album’s clever lyrics, or the Blueberries’ finely honed rock sound.