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.
A Better Place can be purchased from CDBaby or downloaded from Amazon and iTunes, while all three albums can be purchased from Elderly Instruments.