I’m a huge Cyndi Lauper fan – but I couldn’t tolerate Memphis Blues, she hiccupped her way through a range of blues classics that was, at best, comical but mostly just insulting. It undersold Cyndi’s true talent too – she’s a great singer, a strong character voice with an innate theatricality. But there she just got it so wrong. Here, on a set of country covers that takes its cue somewhat from the Memphis Blues project, feels a bit like a spiritual sequel of sorts, she is much better placed. She’s funnier and sharper and the songs suit her. She nails a couple of Patsy Cline songs early on, which establish pedigree and purpose and having Emmylou Harris as a guest, early-on, is not at all silly.
Detour is not perfect. It has the soullessness so often attributed to such projects, feeling, ultimately, like an exercise. But you can hear that Lauper has fun assembling cast and crew and songs – and the talent here is impressive. From session pros (Willie Weeks on bass, Chad Cromwell on drums, Tony Brown on piano and co-producing) to great guest spots from the likes of Emmylou and Vince Gill (a delight shredding and singing on You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly) and Alison Krauss.
Still, Lauper gets lost in this album – and not in the right way. When we hear her sing in the way that she can – as on The End of The World – she’s a delight. And the country attire suits. But when she’s elbowed out the way by Willie Nelson for a version of his perennial, Night Life, or when Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas (featuring Krauss) or the old staple, I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart (with Jewel) take away from the heart and humour in, respectively, I Fall To Pieces or You’re The Reason it becomes unfocussed. A great shame because there are hints here that this is a project dear to Cyndi, not just an exercise. Disappointing then that at times it feels like a Record Company Album rather than the nice fresh start it could have been.
A better album for Lauper, one of the best she’s made in years – but still a very bits and pieces album. You get the feeling that this could have been really great. It very nearly is. But not quite.