Bluegrass Today: Going Nowhere Fast
Album Review: Going Nowhere Fast by Detour
For the complete article including comments from Missy Armstrong and Jeff Rose, please visit Bluegrass Today.
Detour really shook up the bluegrass world in 2012 with the release of A Better Place, the Michigan band’s third album. It was remarkable for the introduction of a new voice and sound in the person of Missy Armstrong, the group’s then new lead vocalist.
With a clarity and freshness that seemed to have come out from under a rock, Missy and the Detour boys found several songs from A Better Place sticking around on our Bluegrass Today Monthly Airplay Chart, signed with a agency to represent them, and began touring nationally in short order.
The band had already set itself apart for the quality of their songwriting, primarily from founder and mandolinist Jeff Rose, and the instrumental prowess of Scott Zylstra on guitar and Peter Knupfer on fiddle. But it was Missy’s entrance that sewed it all up and turned them into radio favorites.
Armstrong tells us it that it all seemed kind of magical to her. It was the first time she had recorded on an album, though the rest of the guys had been doing so for thirty years or so.
But with three young sons at home, it soon became too much for her to run a band, so she let it go. Missy had developed friendships with Jeff Rose and Detour during this time, and said that since she and Jeff had both grown up singing in church, whenever they got together it turned into a Gospel jam.
And they knew a good thing when they heard it, and soon she was invited to join the band.
After a critical success like A Better Place, bluegrass folks have been waiting to see what Detour would turn out as a followup. Last month’s release of Going Nowhere Fast has made it clear that this group is going nowhere but up.
The songwriting is stellar, with all but three of the thirteen titles being written by Jeff and/or Missy. The covers include a strong reading of Traveling The Highway Home, a lovely a cappella rendition of America The Beautiful, and a powerful reworking of I Can See Clearly Now, a 1972 pop hit for Johnny Nash.
Their first single from the new record, Too Blue To Have The Blues, co-written by Rose and our own Terry Herd, has received some notice from bluegrass radio and spent some time on our chart, but it’s only one of several songs likely to make a mark on the airwaves.
For a band known for mostly positive and uplifting messages, Rose’s Juliet was something of a shock. It’s a new song in the classic murder ballad tradition, with a bit of a twist. While sounding throughout like something written in the 19th century, the ending may catch you by surprise. Armstrong delivers it with power and conviction, selling the somber story with just the right touch.
Juliet is followed by Ain’t Gonna Wait, perhaps the record’s strongest cut. It’s a vocal tour-de-force for Missy on a new, old-time Gospel number that demands to be belted out. She complies with style, starting out softly and building to a key change crescendo.
Armstrong said that she and Rose wrote that one driving back to Michigan after World of Bluegrass in Nashville.
There is some mighty strong picking here to complement the vocals. Rose contributes a pair of instrumentals: Three, Two, One, a rip-roaring mandolin number that gives all the guys a chance to shine, and $100, delivered on guitar by Scott Zylstra.
It bears mentioning that Detour has two new members in the rhythm section these days. Lloyd Douglas has taken over the banjo spot, as has Jeremy Darrow on bass. To my ear, the band has a tighter sound on this album, surely due in part to these additions.
According to Missy, it was the band’s busy year in 2013 that forced them to find replacements for long time members Jack Grant and Kevin Gaugier.
Another strong song is I’m Not Home Yet, one Armstrong wrote with Rose and Stephen Mougin. It’s a mid-tempo ballad with understated accompaniment telling of the long journey of life, and its ultimate goal. As with the rest of the album, the harmony vocals are noteworthy, making for a memorable track.
I suspect that I Can See Clearly Now will be a fan favorite. It’s a familiar, fun melody and it suits Missy’s style perfectly. Train, Train serves as the album’s obligatory ‘train song.’ Rose’s song asks the locomotive to please keep on going and not to let his baby ride.
Going Nowhere Fast concludes with the aforementioned America The Beautiful, which Missy says the band often does to finish up their live sets, usually followed up by an instrumental. It hadn’t even been intended for inclusion here, but the many fan requests convinced them to add it at the last minute.
There’s lots of fine picking and singing here. Check it out.
Prescription Bluegrass: Going Nowhere Fast
Just so the gentle reader knows, I am being real careful here. My intent is to insure that I not overstate my delight with Michigan based bluegrass band Detour's latest release “Going Nowhere Fast.”
If you trust me, save yourself the burden of further reading and simply order, buy or download this CD now. If you don't trust me me, how dare you? Read on.
I would like to loosely quote icon Steve Martin in which he laments that “ ...a lot of bluegrass bands today sound alike. You can't tell one from the other when listening to a song on the radio.” Well said Steve, and you know Mr. Martin is right. If not for the artist identification technology of Sirius XM and other radio stations or a D.J. chiming in at the end of a song, most bands would go unrecognized. This is where Detour has an absolute advantage over the scores of today's bluegrass bands scratching and clawing for recognition. Listen to Detour's lead vocalist Missy Armstrong sing one song, just one, and you will never, ever, be in the dark about who's voice that is or what band you are listening to again. It has always been a quirk of mine to hit the rewind button in order hear again just a few notes of a good guitar lick or a nasty little mandolin fill. I caught myself backing up this CD over and over just to hear Missy sing the opening line,“Early on one Saturday...” to kick off Jeff Rose' “Train, Train.” Missy Armstrong's voice is a pure velvety tone and perfectly matches the vibe of this band.
Yes, the vibe of Detour, where do we start? We start with bandleader and mandolinist Jeff Rose, who has managed to harness the talents of five band mates and crank out amazing productions of his and their original work. I first heard Detour live in June of 2013 at The Huck Finn Jubilee in Ontario, California. On Stage were Jeff (mando), Missy (rythym guitar), Peter Knupfer (fiddle), Scott Zylstra (guitar), Kevin Gaugier (banjo) and Jack Carter on electric bass. As far as I know this was Detour's first west coast appearance. I had not previously heard of them. As Huck Finn festival emcee I have the pleasure of loitering around the backstage area mingling with the other performing musicians. As soon as Detour launched into their first song they had the crowd, on both sides of the stage, by the collar.
In February of this year Detour made two major announcements: First, they had been signed by Mountain Fever Records of Willis, Virginia. As of this writing Mountain Fever has both the #1 and #2 spots on the Bluegrass Today Monthly Survey Charts with Detour's “Too Blue To Have the Blues” at #1 and Dave Adkins' “Pike County Jail” at #2. Well done Mark Hodges! (Mountain Fever Records)
The second announcement was that bass player Jack Carter and banjo player Kevin Gaugier were amicably stepping aside in light of Detour's increased road dates and performance schedule. This change concerned me. I had been mesmerized by Jack and Kevin's contribution to the band's unique sound and wondered how the transition would play out. Bassist Jeremy Darrow would take over for Jack Carter, albeit on a stand-up bass, and banjo player Lloyd Douglas would step in for Kevin Gaugier. So, it was out with electric bass, in with stand-up and out with “Bela meets Earl” on banjo. My fears were calmed, and then some, when I heard the first cut on the CD “Too Blue to Have the Blues.” Even with these major changes to personnel, Detour had managed to preserve their signature sound and to power ahead without skipping a beat. Jeremy Darrow's bowed bass intro to“Juliet” is just plain sick, and I'd bet money that banjoist Lloyd Douglas has a little plastic statue of Ron Block on his dashboard, or vice-versa.
On top (or in the middle) of all of this is the guitar of Scott Zylstra and the fiddle work of Peter Knupfer. There is so much to be said for musicians who know when to hit it, when to back off and how to fill a nanosecond of time with the perfect run, single note or slide. Knupfer dive bombs his fiddle breaks from high above and exits like a dog sneaking off with your steak. Scott red-lines his shade top D-18 and pulls out every ounce of tone it has, making strings four, five and six work especially hard. Enjoy track number seven's instrumental “Three, Two, One” where all four lead instruments take an arpeggio driven ride. Hang on tight. This band pops.
I will refrain from dissecting all 13 tracks of this CD. It is full of harmonic, lyrical, tonal and syncopated surprises. I want you to experience them first hand. Though you may want to tune in to Sirius XM's “Track by Track” when Bluegrass Junction's Kyle Cantrell takes a crack at it (tentatively scheduled for broadcast on August 13th, 2014).
Ten of the thirteen cuts on this project are originals, though you'd swear they've been around forever. Detour covers three non-original songs: bluegrass standard “Traveling the Highway Home,” the 70's Johnny Nash hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” and Katherine Bates public domain classic “America the Beautiful.” Their treatment of each lends perspective on how this band hears, interprets and puts a Detour spin on a wide spectrum of music. There is no pretense here, no smoke or mirrors, just good hard bluegrass being played by good hard working folks.
Detour donates the proceeds from the sale of their songs, “Homeless of the Brave” from their previous CD, and “Soldiers Sorrow” from this one, to Patriot Place, a transitional community for homeless veterans in northern Michigan. Jeff Rose was recently able to deliver the second check for $1,000 to Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan for this worthy cause.
If you ever have the chance to see this band perform live, do it. Check their web-site or Facebook page. Until then, buy this CD and discover for yourself why Going Nowhere Fast can be a fine way to live.
Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine: Going Nowhere Fast
Bluegrass Unlimited, November, 2014Right out of the chute, Detour lets you know they are no-nonsense new bluegrass with drive, taste, great harmonies, and the sweet singing of Missy Armstrong puts the icing on a great cake. The songs are uplifting and draw upon tradition without restating worn-out themes. On “Juliet,” they sing about the Johnson Boys, giving a nod to an old mountain tune. “Soldier’s Sorrow” puts a minor spin on the old fiddle tune “Soldier’s Joy” to tell the true cost of war. Sadly, it is not just the dead who pay that cost. They cover the old Johnny Nash hit song “I Can See Clearly Now,” taking out the reggae beat and adding their twist. They cover the old Bailes Brothers gospel favorite “Traveling The Highway Home” and end up with “America The Beautiful.” “Ain’t Gonna Wait” is a proactive approach to living the good life. There are ten originals on this project. An album comprised of just the originals would result in a very strong project. Of the thirteen tracks here, the band wrote all but the three obvious ones mentioned above.
This band is hotter than a dog day afternoon. They all get to strut their stuff on “Three, Two, One,” which is two and a half minutes of really hot picking by Jeff Rose on mandolin, Scott Zylstra on lead guitar, Peter Knupfer on fiddle, Lloyd Douglas on banjo, and Jeremy Darrow on bass. Additionally, Rose and Zylstra also add very nice harmonies to Armstrong’s leads. This is a band to keep your eyes and ears on. They are going places. Great songs, great singing, and above-average picking raise them above the crowd. All in all, they are a winning combination of talents worth your investigation. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.) RCB
Mike & The Ranger: Going Nowhere Fast
It’s out…Detour’s sophomore project…Going Nowhere Fast…and an excellent project It is too. On Bluegrass and More Radio Show, the Ranger and I have been featuring the first single for several weeks called “Too Blue To Have the Blues”. Along with that little ditty, there’s a bunch of great tunes including a tune I use to play on a pop radio station by Johnny Nash called “I Can See Clearly Now”. Lead vocalist, Missy Armstrong does the song right with plenty of feeling…not too precious and not too overboard. Peter Knufer, who I’ve actually jammed with a couple of times here on the plains of Kansas, is one of the best fiddlers in the country…it’s that fusion of Jazz and Bluegrass. Finally…when a new band member makes an appearance, you make comparisons whether fair or not to the previous player…but with new banjo player, Lloyd Douglas, they haven’t missed a step…very creative and fits in perfectly. If you want to get a copy, I see that it can now be downloaded on ITunes and Google Play.
Parchbench Album Review: A Better Place
Written by Greg Victor in Music on 2 November 2012
Detour – A Better Place
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: BlueGrass Ahead
Bluegrass in Michigan? Why not? The music from the hills of Kentucky is allowed to take a turn now and then, and this one is for the better. Detour is a Michigan-based bluegrass band, consisting of Missy Armstrong (lead vocals), Peter Knupfer (fiddle), Scott Zylstra (guitar), Jeff Rose (mandolin), Kevin Gaugier (banjo) and Jack Grant (bass). Each member is outstanding when given the chance to solo, but they play even better as one. Their latest album, A Better Place, features some solid new songs by band member Jeff Rose and the very pleasing vocals of Missy Armstrong. Detour is more interested in playing contemporary bluegrass than in taking the strictly traditional route. Which is fine by me. The songs selected for this album offer a rich mix of originals and classics from the country and even retro-rock genres. Detour finds the inner pulse of a song and lets it fly, as only the best bluegrass bands can.
A highlight on any album is Loretta Lynn’s “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven.” Although it appeared on Loretta’s Hymns album, it is more of a message song than a proper hymn. Still, it’s great to hear performed by anyone, especially bluegrass artists like Detour.
It’s the treatment that Detour gives oldies like “Put A Little Love In Your Heart,” and “The Letter” that captures the attention on first listen. But on listening again, the original tunes start to weave a spell, reminding us of the fine line between a well written song and the listener’s perception of stream of consciousness at work. A brilliant song, especially in the bluegrass structure, has the ability to erase the songwriter, leaving only the music and the soul that hears it.
The album has been out for a few months, but in case you like being up to date on what’s happening in the contemporary bluegrass scene, you owe it yourself to give Detour’s A Better Place a listen. There are far worse turns you could take…
Essential Downloads: “Quarterline Road,” “Everything Is Nothing Like It Seems,” “The Letter.”
Review: A Better Place
A Better Place – Detour
John Goad | July 13, 2012
Fans of contemporary original bluegrass music can’t go wrong with the latest release from Michigan-based band Detour, A Better Place. Detour, led by the clear lead vocals of Missy Armstrong and the inspired songwriting of Jeff Rose, has compiled a fourteen-track album filled with country-tinged originals, a few revamped standards, and skilled instrumentation by the six-piece band. Produced, engineered, mastered, and mixed completely by band members, A Better Place showcases a band with a multitude of skills.
The bulk of the album contains original songs by band members, with mandolin player Jeff Rose contributing eight songs (including the album’s first single and number one hit on the Bluegrass Today charts, Quarterline Road) and lead singer Missy Armstrong offering one (the new, foot-tapping single, Lovin’ Liza Jane). These originals contain many common bluegrass themes (Quarterline Road reminisces about growing up in the country, while the lonesome banjo and fiddle of Wind in the Willows back up the tale of a woman who feels distant from the one she loves), put to a smooth, fresh, country-flavored sound. Also from Rose’s pen is the stirring Homeless of the Brave, which shares the story of veterans who have returned from battle, yet been unable to find work and even a home.
Even the few older tunes on the album receive an updated treatment. Loretta Lynn’s Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven has a bluesy vibe, while I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages, which often has an old-time, mountain feel when recorded by bluegrass artists, manages to sound soulful and mournful at the same time. One interesting track is a cover of 1960s pop song Put A Little Love in Your Heart, which is bouncy and cheerful.
Rose’s compositions on the album also include three instrumentals which showcase the picking skills of the band, including Rose (mandolin and guitar), Scott Zylstra (guitar), Peter Knupfer (fiddle), Kevin Gaugier (banjo and mandolin), and Jack Grant (bass). The first, Banjo Warning, is one of the most bluegrass-influenced songs on the album, beginning and ending with Rose’s strong mandolin playing. Rella’s Waltz is a sweet tune anchored by the fiddle playing of Knupfer, while Big Shake and Howdy is a traditional-sounding song featuring red-hot picking.
While Detour is just beginning to make a name for itself on the national bluegrass scene, there is no doubt that they have earned the praise they are sure to receive. For more information about the band, visit their website at www.detourbluegrass.com.
Review: The Road that Lies Ahead
Published April 9, 2009
“Detour reinvents themselves for new ‘Road’ ahead”
Chris Rietz | For the Lansing State Journal
“Radio Hill,” the dazzling debut from Michigan’s bluegrass band Detour, hit the scene with such a resounding bang in 2007 that it almost created a problem: some bands disappear into a fog trying to outdo their first albums, never to emerge again. But with their new release, the aptly titled “The Road That Lies Ahead,” Detour sidesteps that trap by reinventing themselves, in three critical ways.
The first is that two-time Winfield Banjo Champion Mike Sumner has departed for greener (or at least warmer) pastures in Nashville. He still appears on eight of the CD’s 12 tracks, but the others are covered by new Detour banjoist Kevin Gaugier, a fixture of the Lansing bluegrass scene for decades.
Secondly, “Road” is lit up from beginning to end with the fiddling of MSU history professor Peter Knupfer, a player with serious chops, and a real addition to Detour’s already formidable instrumental lineup.
Third – and most important – bassist Zak Bunce has quietly been promoted to lead singer. He and the other two core members – mandolinist Jeff Rose and guitarist/engineer Scott Zylstra – are all fine singers, but Bunce is the one who can really push hard at the high registers. That, and the hair-rising “buzz” that their three-part harmonies achieve up there in the atmosphere, catapult the Detour vocals to a new level.
Much like his sister Rachael Davis (Shout Sister Shout), Bunce is a singer with wide range and a seemingly bottomless reserve of vocal firepower. In a vehicle like the bluesy “Dear Brother” he may remind listeners of John Cowan, but with a mastery of bluegrass style that the Newgrass Revival icon could only dream of.
More than ever, though, Detour is a platform for Jeff Rose’s songs, and nine of the 12 tracks are Rose originals. Two of the others, “Sittin’ on Top of the World” and “Shady Grove,” are such overdone standards as to be negligible. Merle Travis’s “16 Tons” fares better, as Bunce dials down the tough-guy braggadocio and underscores the drama and melancholy of this coal-miner classic.
The original songs (and three nifty instrumentals) are of consistently high quality, but two may find themselves appearing other bands’ setlists: the chilling “Cold Stones” and the funny, self-referential “My Life Just Ain’t a Bluegrass Song.”
Review: Radio Hill
“Detour mixes old-fashioned bluegrass energy with a lyrical groove”
Chris Rietz | For the Lansing State Journal
“It’s not 1938, and they’re not a pop-bluegrass hybrid like Newgrass Revival or Seldom Scene, nor are they neo-traditionalists like Blue Highway. Detour, Michigan’s newest, brightest bluegrass band, is a glimpse of the music’s fourth wave. It’s a debut album that sparkles, not least because it lacks any of the breathless, we’ve-got-something-to-prove desperation the genre invites. While Detour can crank up the tempo – that version of “John Hardy” is there just to show they can blow the doors off when they want to – much of “Radio Hill” packs real, old-fashioned bluegrass energy into a more lyrical groove.
That’s because, despite that their three singers can really dish it and they’re all top-notch
instrumentalists, Detour is above all a song band. Mandolinist/singer Jeff Rose (Iowa Rose, High Canyon Ramblers) wrote fully eight of the album’s 15 tracks, a choice selection from his fabled deep catalog of original songs.
Traditionalists may grouse that Detour’s trio singing, while it attains that hard-voiced “buzz” that characterizes the old-time harmony, refrains from pushing at the high register. It’s “that mid-range, lonesome sound,” even though bassist Zak Bunce (Lake Effect, Rachael Davis), the best of a threesome of fine singers, can head into high atmosphere when he chooses.
Scott Zylstra, also the album’s recording engineer, has wisely sidestepped the fastest-gun-in-the-west school of bluegrass guitar, and his muted, woody tone is a model of bluesy, smart phrasing. Banjo picker Mike Sumner, 2001’s National Banjo Champion no less, wrote the album’s other original, “Winds of Winfield.” That meditative, minor-key tune is his compositional showcase; but listen to “John Hardy” – his first break is straight-out-of-the-book Scruggs style, the second is a wild leap into stratospheric, post-Tony Trischka chromaticism.
Alongside chestnuts like “Darling Corey” or “Handsome Molly” are some surprise covers: The Impressions’ “People Get Ready” to end the album, or the Youngbloods’ hippie anthem “Get Together,” which sounds here more like church than the Summer of Love.
MSU history prof Peter Knupfer has joined Detour since the album’s release this fall. Knupfer is a first-rate fiddler, and his addition will only improve the Detour arsenal – they may be the finest bluegrass band our state has yet produced.”