A review by Richard Radcliffe

Having followed Ez Jon Erikson in his musical journey since the beginning, I was intrigued when in 2001 he teamed up with his brother Sam and friend Julian to form the band Detours. I knew Sam and Julian from way back, thanks to being such a close friend of Ez. I was familiar with the music of Sam and Julian's previous band Diversion Ends. I knew that individually they were all great musicians – but would the individual talent coalesce into a whole?

They were to play acoustically; minimal, raw arrangements. Unlike Ez, I am not a great fan of this kind of music. When top bands go unplugged, I wish they would plug back in, as I wish to hear them with lots of electrical instruments and big production. The kind of raw music that acoustic arrangements bring shows up the musical talents of those on show, for good and bad. Very few bands start out this way and become commercially successful, but many bands become acoustic as they progress. And so Detours decided to shift from the norm, and that approach, with the greater emphasis on the words and melody in their basic form, is to be applauded for its boldness.

The album shows a mixture of talents from all members of the trio. There’s three Ez songs, all originally from his Ramshackle World CD. There’s seven Diversion Ends songs as a tip of the hat (hence the name Detours, which was also the original name for The Who) and also two new songs from Julian. The contrast in lead vocalists and their individual style helps the listening experience as a whole, but all songs are performed in a similar, acoustic style. There is a distinctive sound to this album.

But let the music speak for itself:-

A Walk on the Beach

Sam has been singing this for years, with it being an old Diversion Ends song. In fact it was the very first Diversion Ends song he performed live, and was their concert opener for a couple of years. This was the reason this song was chosen as the album opener. Here Sam performs it as well as ever. Ez provides effective backing singing, and Julian provides an up tempo riff on guitar to proceedings. It’s a great song (written by local musicians and former Diversion Ends members Richard Duddle and Bryn Gator) and works well in this format, but maybe it requires more than the acoustic arrangement here. A very effective opener, nonetheless.  7/10

Doesn’t Matter Much To Me

Another great Diversion Ends track (co-written by Sam with Richard Duddle) is adopted, and adapted, by Detours. Clear vocals work better here, showing great songs traverse any medium. Very powerful lead vocals from Sam, and excellent harmonising from Ez. Julian valiantly carries the backbone to the instrumentation again, complimented by Ez's guitar chord sprongs. A personal Diversion Ends favourite of mine and well performed here.  9/10

Best Thing

An Ez song that has evolved more than any other. I reckon this could be its best rendering. Originally on Eztravaganza in a 1980's style rock arrangement, then used for Ramshackle World in a Spaghetti Western style arrangement, here Best Thing is stripped down to the bare bones and is a real winner. A soaring trumpet really shines through, with clear, fingerpicked guitar. Excellent vocals, clear, poetical lyrics - in fact everything comes together supremely. As smooth as a summers day in the meadows!  9/10

Stay With Me Tonight

Arguably this is the least successful translation over to the acoustic setting. There just needs to be more arrangement here for me. It sorely misses the keyboards, drums, bass, electric guitars and big harmonies that it had in the Diversion Ends demo arrangement. The acoustic style just doesn’t work for me, however I am lucky to be familiar with the Diversion Ends demo which will not really be known by many other people, so it is difficult for me to review Detours' version. Nice guitar work from Ez and Julian though. It’s such a great song (written by Bryn Gator). It’s a shame – Sam puts in a pretty good performance, but does seem to be almost straining here a little in the original key of C Major. A lower key may be in order for live purposes? The song will always score a 10 but for me this recording gets  5/10

Runaway Child

The first exposure for Julian, with his reality check concerning a girl's home life. A clever use of muted trumpet adds atmosphere, but the singer and guitar really work well for this one. Julian sings this with great emotion, the cry of those left behind being evocatively shown. Unlike Sam's, Julian's is not a technically great voice, but it does not matter for story songs of this nature. A poignant and effective contrast to what has gone before.  8/10

Fear of the World

A knee jerk Ez reaction to the world this one, straight from his Ramshackle World. Rather quietly executed acoustically, another one needing more oomph! Not that bad, everything considered, but hardly top of the tree. The version on Ramshackle World is far, far superior.  7/10

Want To Be the One

A well known song to those that have followed Diversion Ends or Sam Johnson as a performer for the last decade or so. Great songs demand a top performance, and Sam gives it. This one shows more than any other how great a singer Sam is. It also shows again the song writing strength of Bryn Gator. Guitar accompaniment extremely good here too.  9/10

Live To Die

Bruce Springsteen inspired, Ez manages to create the most lyrically clever track on the CD. Nice to hear another instrument - harmonica. Good song, sang very well by Ez.  8/10

Gold Digger

Julian has really got his work cut out, to produce the liveliness necessary for this old Diversion Ends number. He brings much rhythm and soul to it, with Sam's tambourine also helping to move the beat along. Powerful vocals again from Sam - great control. As good as it could have been acoustically.   7/10

Love Was In Your Eyes

I feel rather the same about this one as I do about Gold Digger. It’s a good song, just not in its best arrangement when performed acoustically. Sam and Ez belt out the repetitive chorus well. It’s never been one of my favourite Diversion Ends songs however, even though it is performed pretty well here.  7/10

More To Life

Another Julian vocal, with the exclamation emphasis being provided in the chorus by Sam on backing vocals. Nice to hear harmonica from Ez again. Not as good as Ju's earlier Runaway Child, his vocals suffer more here, but it still shows an adeptness for song writing and storytelling.  7/10

General’s War

The showstopper of Diversion Ends provides a natural conclusion to the album. Introductory trumpet playing The Last Post merges very well into guitar riff, with Sam belting out the vocals excellently. This song just demands a full rock band, even though it’s just about as great as it could be acoustically.  7/10

They wanted it to be raw, they wanted the melodies to be emphasized, they wanted the lyrics to be heard. They have achieved this for sure. Some songs lend themselves very well to this style of music, others (usually the Diversion Ends numbers) do not. Nevertheless many more pluses than minuses on the First Year Report Card, and these are of course only my own personal opinions.


After now hearing this album a number of times the following always impress:-

1          The clearness of the lyrics. The words are eloquently delivered, and there is nothing muffled or incoherent. Very good diction.

2          The contrast of the vocalists. Sam, Ez and Julian all sing so differently, each bringing their own unique style to the band.

3          Harmonies between singers. Whoever is singing, the others are backing up brilliantly, creating a great effect.

4          Guitar variation. I’m not a guitarist myself, but I was amazed at how many riffs Julian produced, complimented by Ez's subtle guitar playing. The acoustic guitar may be the main accompaniment on this album (with the odd trumpet, harmonica and tambourine) but each song is so different from the others. To think that there is no drums on this album and only a sprinkling of tambourine is astonishing. The rhythm really is created by the guitars.

Overall this is an extremely good first collection from Detours. The songs are stripped of production embellishments, and are there to be enjoyed in their clearness and basic state. This is the way they perform live, what you hear on this album is very much what you get in concert. You feel that the lads are performing for you in your own living room. A great achievement and this nicely documents the formation of the group.


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