I’m going to start this review the same way I seem to start every review I’ve written recently, by reminiscing about a musical experience I had as a child. I know it’s pretty self-indulgent for a writer to talk about themselves in a review of another person’s music but it goes some way to explaining why I first considered reviewing this in the first place.
The first physical manifestation of music I’d ever held in my hands was my mum’s copy of Twelve Deadly Cyns…and Then Some, Cyndi Lauper’s 1994 Greatest Hits album. I was probably about six years old at the time. I have earlier memories of music, bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smiths, and T-Rex were played a lot in my house when I growing up, but this was the first CD I remember playing myself. All the good stuff was on it, from the timeless pop behemoths “Time After Time” and “True Colors” to what is essentially the 80’s in a nutshell; “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” It’s fair to say I was raised on a healthy dose of 80’s music which probably goes some way to explaining my unshakable obsession with the decade.
You’d be forgiven for perceiving Lauper as a quintessential 80’s musician but the truth is she’s still very active musically.
With three decades of music spanning 10 studio albums. Clearly not content with resting on her laurels and cashing in her weekly royalties check like most other artists of her ilk, Lauper has dedicated over half of her life making music and in her later years supporting numerous charity organisations and being an active campaigner for LGBT rights.
Cyndi Lauper is widely regarded as an oddball musician, never one to take the straight and narrow. For that reason you should view her decision to release an album entirely comprising of country music covers with a pinch of salt because on the whole it’s such a Cyndi Lauper thing to do. With her extensive back catalogue of blues, pop and rock this is simply another feather in her cap.
So is Detour any good? Well it definitely has its moments. “Heartache By The Number,” originally released in the 1950s by Ray Price and Guy Mitchell is a jaunty two step little number with a real earworm of a chorus. I found myself singing it hours after I’d first heard it. Lauper’s voice is still as grand and poignant as it was in the 80’s too which considering she’s now in her 60’s is an impressive feat. “Hard Candy Christmas” is a cover of Dolly Parton’s 1982 release which has already been covered itself by June Carter Cash and Sixpence None The Richer vocalist Leigh Nash. Fair play to New York born Lauper here too because she really does shine with her mimicked southern drawl, which is done subtly enough to not be overdone and overwrought. “Funnel of Love” was a song I was already familiar with, or at least the original 1961 version by Wanda Jackson. It’s every bit as psychedelic as you’d expect and really does encompass the swinging 60’s perfectly. Lauper’s version is almost identical except for her voice which is big and broad to Jackson’s gravelly and shrill. All in all it does the original justice.
Detour is not without its guest appearances. On the album, Lauper is joined by Alison Krauss on the aforementioned “Hard Candy Christmas,” Jewel on “I want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”’and Willie goddamn Nelson on a remaking of his 1960 release “Night Life.” Lauper really does go rooting around in the old timey music vaults with her cover of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” a song originally released by Patsy Cline in 1957 when Lauper was just three years old in 1958.
I think there comes a time in a musician’s life when they are free of the restraints of major label contracts and thus free to release whatever the hell they want. No bells or whistles but simply a singer recording herself singing a bunch of songs she really likes.
Fans of Cyndi Lauper and/or country music won’t really exclusively have much time for Detour.
So it’s left up to casual music fans such as myself with no allegiance in either party to look at the record from the outside and have a clear, unbiased opinion. What I will say is that the songs on Detour all do the originals justice. Lauper doesn’t cross any boundaries and the tracks are nothing more than karaoke versions. Detour is front and centre the result of a woman clearly enjoying her craft and comfortable enough to explore new genres in an effort to embrace the medium she’s loved since 1983.