may not seem like much of a detour to Sheryl Crow fans. Her politics pour out of these songs the way you might expect them to if you caught wind of her epic cross-country bus trip, with the activist Laurie David, to promote environmental awareness months prior to this release. From the quiet, faraway-sounding opener "God Bless This Mess"--a novel in a song--to the catchy but thought-provoking "Gasoline", it's clear that Crow has more on her mind these days than soaking up the sun or having a little fun, à la the Tuesday Night Music Club
era. Yet there's not a groan-worthy song on this standout rock/pop/folk/blues album. If the themes are heavy (in addition to the political songs, there's an almost painfully tender lullaby for her son Wyatt and one, "Make It Go Away [Radiation Song]," that touches on her breast-cancer experience), the mood is cathartic, determined, hopeful at times and sad at others. "Now That You're Gone" grabs at clarity through the clouds of a devastating love affair and gets it, and "Peace Be Upon Us" picks apart pettiness and arrives at a wide-minded beauty. George Harrison seems present in some of these songs, especially the more personal ones ("Drunk with the Thought of You," "Love Is All There Is"). And that may be the highest compliment that Sheryl Crow, who seems to admire his gentle soul and shares his big heart, could ask for. --Tammy La Gorce
Since Sheryl Crow released her last album, Wildflower, she's had a rough time. Not only did she suffer a much publicised break-up with Lance Armstrong shortly after the couple got engaged, she's also fought off early stage breast cancer. The spirit that she's needed to survive such trials is writ large through Detours, her sixth studio album; a collection of tunes which, as you'd expect from an activist like Sheryl, doesn't wallow in her personal life, but chooses instead to investigate the wider world. Never one to shy away from the big issues, Crow has stated that these songs cover topics from the environment to the floods of New Orleans, though interestingly, the main thrust does not seem to be her increasingly political voice but an investigation of religion.
Maybe it's that brush with a potentially terminal illness or just a realisation that modern politics has as much to do with piety as it does policies, but from the opening pair of God Bless This Mess and Shine Over Babylon, to the ''children of Abraham'' in the chorus of Out Of Our Heads - a song which even without the reference would sound like John Lennon fronting the Salvation Army - and the inclusion of Islamic greetings in Peace Be Upon Us, there is an inescapable stream of spirituality and religious imagery that flows through the proceedings.
Thankfully, it doesn't get overly preachy, thanks to the few inclusions that do face her personal demons; Now That You're Gone is a strong redemption-from-love song and Love Is All There Is deals with loss in a suitably mature way. Not that she's above smashing a few plates, as the bitter couplet of ''Diamonds may be sweet/but to me they just bring on cold feet'' of Diamond Ring shows.
If Detours can be summed up in a single word, it is measured. With what Sheryl has been through recently, you could have forgiven an album that spoke of meltdowns and which castigated and caterwauled.
What she's actually provided is something grown-up, intellectual and toe-tapping, showing that after 15 years of solo work, she can still be every bit as vibrant and vital as her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. Detours might not just the sound of an artist returning to her finest form, it could also be the sound of a career being reborn. --Chris Long
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