Sunday, July 6, 2014


PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS IMAGE - CD REVIEW - DETOUR - GOING NOWHERE FAST - MARTY WARBURTON, REVIEWERJust 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 PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS CD REVIEW QUOTE - MARTY WARBURTONpower 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. / /

Reviewed for Prescription Bluegrass by Marty Warburton /

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