‘HOMELESS OF THE BRAVE’

Jeff Rose and Missy Armstrong perform their song, “Homeless of the Brave,” at the Nov. 11, 2011 Veterans’ Day concert held at the Manistee High School. That song is one of 14 on the Detour’s new CD, “A Better Place.” The song was written by Rose. (File photo by Jeanne Barber/News Advocate)

Local bluegrass group ‘Detour’ delivers haunting, humbling song on plight of homeless veterans

The tears in Jeff Rose’s eyes soon delivered a tidal wave of emotion and inspiration.

“I was riding in my car when I heard a news story about homeless veterans,” Rose said. “I was stunned to learn there are around 70,000 homeless veterans in this country, and over 600 in northern Michigan, alone.

“The story literally brought tears to my eyes. I find it totally unfathomable this situation exists in America, with all of the abundance we enjoy.”

Wave after wave of words began to roll through Rose’s mind. The sad story he heard on the radio just had to be retold in his own words, and in his own way — through song.

A songwriter and founding member of the bluegrass group Detour, Rose began to pen the words to what would become the song, “Homeless of the Brave.” The song is a story about American veterans who return home, only to find they cannot get jobs, or in some cases, even find places to live and sleep.

Even though the message of what he wanted to say kept rolling through his mind like wave after wave splashing down upon a beach, in one incredible culmination of emotion and inspiration, Rose literally finished the soul-numbing song while on his way to perform at a Veterans’ Day concert in Manistee last year.

“I wrote most of the song, and finished it, on my way to the Veterans’ Day program,” Rose said. “I called Missy (Armstrong, fellow band member) on the way and sang the song into the voicemail of her phone. Then, we played it together backstage (for the first time), before we went onstage that evening.

“Homeless of the Brave” is both haunting, and humbling. It goes, in part: “I heard a story on the radio, about soldiers coming home from the war, how they couldn’t find a job, in this land they’d been fighting for.”

The song continues: “Can we stand up and say, there’ll be hell to pay, if another soldier dies upon the streets.”

The defining statement of Rose’s song tells listeners: “Oh, there has to be a way, that we can save, those living in the land of the free, and the homeless of ‘The Brave.’”

Detour’s cover to their new CD, “A Better Place,” which is expected to be released about June 1.

When Rose and Armstrong sang the song for the first time at that Veterans’ Day concert at the Manistee High School last year, they received an enthusiastic, lengthy standing ovation.

“The response to our new song was really quite overwhelming,” Rose said, softly. “To be saluted with a standing ovation from an audience that included many, many veterans for our song, was humbling.

“We played it this past weekend for the first time in concert with Detour and once again the response, particularly from the veterans in the crowd, was very positive,” Rose said.

The song is one of 14 tracks on Detour’s latest CD, “A Better Place,” which is expected to be released in a few months. “Homeless of the Brave” also will be available on the Internet at CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and numerous other Internet sites. Profits from the song will be donated by Rose and Detour to support homeless veterans programs in the area.

“We are (especially) working with Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan to support their efforts around the Patriot Place for homeless veterans,” Rose said. “Over time, if we can raise enough money, we will look at expanding our partnerships.”

According to its website, Patriot Place is “Northern Michigan’s only veterans transitional housing community for veterans who are experiencing homelessness,” where “Veterans in need will have the opportunity to live independently with support services for up to two years.”

Patriot Place specifically serves male veterans coping with disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse disorders and/or mental health concerns.

Located in Gaylord, it consists of four duplex housing units where up to 24 veterans can be housed. Each house contains three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, living room, kitchen, washer and dryer, and a garage/storage area. There also is a community building which includes group meeting spaces, classrooms and case management offices. A resident manager quarters is also located on the property.

“We’re very humbled to be able to do what we can, to assist our veterans and Patriot Place,” Rose said. “Six hundred homeless veterans in northern Michigan, alone? That’s too many. That’s unacceptable.”

 

BUSY SCHEDULE AHEAD FOR DETOUR

Rose said he expects Detour will play about 25 concerts this year, including some benefit concerts. Next year they might play even more concerts.

“We expect that 2013 will be much busier as we promote the band with our new music throughout the country,” Rose said. “The concert we did last weekend was a benefit for ‘Pickin’ On Cystic Fibrosis’

“We are playing at Michigan State University (April 20) as a benefit for their Relay for Life. Our song, ‘A Better Place,’ will be featured during the luminaria ceremony. We will probably do another three to five benefits this year.”

Rose penned six songs on their “Better Place” CD, including “Homeless of the Brave,” as well as two instrumentals  — one waltz and one fiddle breakdown.

Armstrong wrote “Lovin’ Liza Jane,” a song that Rose said is “A really cool traditional sounding bluegrass song.”

“We also have five songs by other writers which include a couple of gospel songs, a traditional song, and two that we call ‘Mo-Grass,’ that being songs from the Motown era that we have ‘grassified,’” he said.

Detour has targeted June 1 as the date it will officially release its “A Better Place” CD.

“This gives us time to get the CD out to all of the stations around the country that report to the charts,” Rose said. “However, the CD is either currently available, or within the next few days, will be available online at Elderly Instruments (www.elderly.com) and at CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) and at various other Internet sites. It also will be available at a local retailer in Manistee.”

Last year the group’s song, “My Life Just Ain’t a Bluegrass Song,” spent nine months on the national charts in the Top 30, and rose as high as number 12 on the national bluegrass charts.

“We are so happy to have our new CD ready for release and are excited about the prospect of raising funds for homeless veterans,” Rose said. “We have been honored to play for Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day ceremonies in my hometown (Manistee), and we hope to be invited back.”

Detour will play in Manistee this summer at the “Roots on the River” concert series on July 5.

For more information on Detour, go to  detourbluegrass.com.

JEFF ROSE (mandolin, lead, harmony vocals) is the master musician whose original songs shape the Detour sound. Jeff’s bluegrass roots run deep in eastern Kentucky. He toured extensively for over 20 years with Iowa Rose, the High Canyon Ramblers and the Porkypines. He has also led numerous workshops on songwriting, mandolin and guitar technique. Jeff is one of the current reigning IBMA golf champions.

MISSY ARMSTRONG (lead, harmony vocals, guitar) is Detour’s newest member. “I grew up being exposed to many kinds of music,” Missy recalls. “My dad really loved music, he didn’t officially sing or play anything but he could remember every lyric to almost any song and we would whistle constantly.” Country and gospel harmonies captivated her at an early age, so that she “grew up singing in our small country church whenever I could.” Then the bluegrass bug bit her and for a time she ran with her own outfit, the Missy Kay Band, before signing on with the Detour boys. Her greatest influences these days are Eva Cassidy, Etta James, Lynn Morris, Dorothy Moore, Anne Murray, Tony Rice, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly, EmmyLou and Patty Loveless.

SCOTT ZYLSTRA (guitar, lead, harmony vocals), is a master of tone, taste and timing and propels the band forward with his superb rhythm and tasteful lead work. Scott has played in a number of bands throughout Michigan including the Porkypines. Scott is the owner of Frontier Recording, a highly successful recording and production studio. Scott’s distinctive guitar style is always an immediate crowd favorite.

JACK GRANT (bass, harmony and lead vocals) is a veteran bass player, singer, and cat-lover from Western Michigan, Jack studied music as a kid and then taught himself to play bass. He says his musical interests are “all over the charts,” pun intended, including classical jazz, be-bop, reggae, and of course bluegrass: especially Alison Krauss and Union Station and Hot Rize. His favorite bass players include Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers, Charles Mingus, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Jimmy Blanton, Scott LaFaro, Jaco Pastorius, and Barry Bales. “Although I like many different kinds of music, my fave to play and sing is bluegrass. It’s not so loud, I love acoustic instruments and then there is the harmony singing. Plus there is a drive that can be had that is delicious.”

PETER KNUPFER has been a professional bluegrass, folk, swing and jazz fiddle player for over 30 years. He has performed with Byron Berline, Joel Mabus, Alan Munde, Donald Stiernberg, John McCuen, Tony Trischka, Bill Evans, Bill Keith, Tim O’Brien, Peter Wernick, Greg Cahill, Peter Ostroushko and Howard Levy. Peter teaches U.S. History at Michigan State University and lives with his family in East Lansing. “Peter Knupfer is one of those rare and wonderful fiddle players who can do it all,” says mandolin virtuoso Donald Stiernberg. “Peter always brings a joyful intensity to the session and elevates his fellow musicians.”

KEVIN GAUGIER’S (banjo, lead and harmony vocals) three decades of performing experience have taken him from the Eastern European shores of the Black Sea to the wilds of central Alaska (where a portable generator was required to power the sound system). Kevin has performed on mandolin, guitar, and banjo with several mid-Michigan bands through the years, including Sweetcorn with whom he opened for country superstar Wynonna Judd before an audience of tens of thousands and also recorded the theme song for the radio program “Grass Roots” which airs weekly on Kalamazoo’s WMUK. Kevin’s recent performances include appearances with world-class banjoists Tony Trischka, Janet Beazley, and Bill Evans. Alternating between tasteful, sensitive fills and dazzling improvisation, Kevin’s instrumental lead work is a fine complement to Detour’s creative sound.

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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