RATING: 2 / 5 stars
By Chris Moore:
As an album, Detours is certainly not what its title would imply. If anything, this is a further return to form for Sheryl Crow – equal parts acoustic and electric, serious and carefree. At every turn, it surprises and engages and, above all, denies the listener the opportunity to get too comfortable. She is concerned about a series of social issues, yet she does not stop there—she shares some advice for getting back on the right track and, of course, some relevant personal tales.
The songs on this album can essentially be divided into three main categories—topical songs, songs about love and peace, and personal songs. The album kicks off with a selection from the first category, the acoustic-only “God Bless This Mess.” With lines like, “The president…led us as a nation into a war based on lies,” Crow establishes early on that she will not be pulling any punches. Then, if there was any question in the listener’s mind as to whether or not this album would be too simple, she thunders into “Shine Over Babylon,” spewing lines about teachers’ hands being “overrun,” cities “drowning under boiling fountains,” and scavengers handing us “all the junk that should have damned” us. Upon a first listen, I was happy to hear that someone else is very much unhappy with the state of affairs in our nation and in our world. She goes on to address, as the title implies, “Gasoline” and the priorities that some place in parties, reality-TV, and the like in “Motivation.”
If this was her only focus, then Detours may have been quite a downer indeed. However, true to form, Crow compliments her darker songs with an equal helping of tunes calling for us to embrace peace and love. In an almost hippie-esque fashion, she declares “Everybody’s making love ‘cause love is free” and later calls upon us to invoke the refrain, “Peace Be Upon Us” At times, these songs can end in a repetitive manner or come across as too simple, but overall they seem sincere and not so out of place on an album that asks us to strip everything down to the surface, from social issues to romantic relationships. And, if the protest song-undertones of songs like “Out of Our Heads” isn’t your cup of tea, then it is hard to ignore a catchy and upbeat rocker like “Love Is All There Is.” Ringo Starr would be proud.
What really brings this album home for me is the final category of songs, namely the personal tales that inhabit this release. Both the title track and “Make It Go Away (The Radiation Song)” come across as deeply personal and, again, very sincere. Coming on the heels of her recent treatments for cancer, these songs translate as authentic glimpses into her mindset as an individual. For instance, as she explained in a recent interview, detours is a term she uses to describe experiences that force us to reevaluate our priorities and our lives. Physical health isn’t her only concern; on the contrary, the emotions of new love shine through on “Drunk With the Thought of You” and the gloom of love gone wrong can be heard in every breath of “Diamond Ring.” I thought it very fitting of her to put “Lullaby for Wyatt” last in the track listing. After an album’s worth of sorting through the world’s problems and both advocating the importance of and considering the realities of love, she ends with the realization that she loves her son, but “love is letting go.”
When she released C’mon, C’mon in 2002, I had difficulty finding merit in its pop-based sound and mentality, and I wondered what her future albums would be like. It only took a few guitar strums and the first line of track one, “I Know Why,” from her subsequent 2005 album Wildflower to put any concerns out of my mind entirely. Now, Detours has reaffirmed my interest in Crow’s music, if only for its ability to cover so much ground—political, social, interpersonal—in such a sincere manner.
** EDITOR’S NOTE **
The 2 star rating (out of five) was added after the review was written. This is an album that had very little staying power, and I was admittedly much more enthusiastic about the release than I should have been, most likely due to events in my personal life — i.e. the decision to buy more CD’s in 2008 to really experience a broader range of new music. I hope you enjoy the album, as I did when I first wrote this review. However, the rating should act as a warning from a wiser listener.