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Reviewed by Red Rocker
With Detours, the 46-year old Crow has clearly moved on, and we should, too. In a recent interview, she touts the new album as “in your face and very heavy.” After the first listen, it’s obvious she wasn’t referring to the musical style so much as the lyrics and underlying attitude. Yes, the gal who once sang whimsically about peeling labels from bottles of Bud and soaking up the sun has graduated to waging verbal war against the current political administration and being “the target for the angry.” In many ways, this is her best shot at a Bob Dylan record, thematically and musically. It’s loaded with simple arrangements, less-is-more engineering, and sharp political matter. Even Crow admitted she’s “always in search of the perfect song, which I don’t feel like I’ve written yet.” To ruin the suspense, none of these songs are perfect. For now, she seems content with perfectly pissed off.
Producer Bill Bottrell is back for the first time since Crow’s debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, and it is never more apparent than on the first single, “Shine Over Babylon,” which is musically and structurally akin to “Run, Baby, Run.” Of course, we weren’t being bludgeoned with anti-war slogans like “won’t be long before we all are killers” 15 years ago, but again, this is an older, more brazen Crow than the one who inquired, “Will you be strong enough to be my man?” Bottrell does more than turn knobs on the mixing board, too. As on TNMC, he helped write lyrics or music on at least half the Detours tracks. Bottrell’s most entertaining contributions include a breezy, clap-happy “Love Is Free,” as well as “Out of Our Heads,” which sports a Manchester club beat a la the aforementioned Madonna. Here Crow even draws from the Bible in repeating, “Children of Abraham lay down your fears, swallow your tears and look to your heart.”
When she forgoes a political agenda in favor of raw human emotion, Crow wins, like on the campfire sing-along title track, and especially the naked acoustics of “God Bless This Mess.”
Detours is not boring by any means – it’s got way too much variety and breadth to yawn through. Maybe it’s the bitter headlines shoved to the forefront by the renowned Queen of Pop that are hard to digest. (Maybe there’s only a handful of artists, Dylan and the like, who can rightfully deliver such lyrical tirades?) On the other hand, when she discloses, “Diamonds may be sweet, but to me they just bring on cold feet” on the painfully stoic “Diamond Ring,” we’re inclined to believe the message. Same with the self-help mantra, “Motivation,” where Crow preaches, “Got no reason to bitch, ain’t no parties I’ve missed.” These are topics we rely on Her Popness to tackle – love, pain, learning, yearning, aging, and living. We don’t have to soak up the sun every time out, but let’s leave those “bastards in Washington” and their playground of corruption (“where there is shit there’s always flies”) to the pundits. Whatever happened to a good beer buzz early in the morning, anyway?