If you don’t think of Michigan as a hotbed of bluegrass, Detour is the band that will change your mind. As musicians, singers, and songwriters, the members of Detour hold their own on any bluegrass stage. They’re a thoroughly professional, highly entertaining band with a terrific repertoire of originals, classics, hot instrumentals, and a few surprises. For the total bluegrass package, take this Detour!
– Bob Blackman, host of “The Folk Tradition,” WKAR-FM, East Lansing, MI, September 2011
Take A Bluegrass ‘Detour’ to ‘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.”
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.
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.”
Published November 8, 2007
“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.”