Three years after their second CD, Detour delivers an album on which the same high level of musicianship and creativity is maintained, but there have been changes to the personnel and the band’s sound. Mandolinist Jeff Rose remains the primary songwriter, contributing eight of the recording’s fourteen tracks. As good as his writing was then, his lyrics and melodies have strengthened and matured here. Among his best are the memory and coming-of-age song “Quarterline Road,” the gospel title tune, the oddly-named mandolin tune “Banjo Warning,” and the misplaced-dreams song “Everything Is Nothing As It Seems.” All four have a bright, positive air that makes them attractive. Rose’s mandolin also remains a highlight and has taken on Reischman-like overtones. Also still with the band and still contributing quality ensemble and lead work are guitarist Scott Zylstra, fiddler Peter Knupfer, and banjoist Kevin Gaugier. As with Rose’s songwriting, their musicianship has risen to a higher level, particularly Zylstra’s guitar leads, which have become more spare and thoughtful and more individualistic.
The major change has been to the lead vocals. Bassist and lead singer Zak Bunce was replaced by electric bassist Jack Grant and singer Missy Armstrong. Both of those changes altered the band’s sound, though none more so than Armstrong’s lead voice. Whereas with Bunce the sound had been slightly edgy and, at times, raucous, Armstrong’s smooth, predominantly gentle delivery required a shift to a softer, more polished band sound. Armstrong’s at her best on the aforementioned Rose songs and on “I’ll Go Stepping Too,” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart,” a little less so on tunes requiring more grit or a bluesier inflection, as with their cover of the rock hit “The Letter.” All in all, the changes have been successful, and the results merit high marks. (Detour Band, 3315 Rose Rd., Brethren, MI 49619, www.detourbluegrass.com.)BW