06 November 2007

Bon Jovi - "Lost Highway"

Lost Highway
Bon Jovi
CD Release Date: 19 June 2007

Lost Highway is Bon Jovi's first album explicitly marketed as a country release.  A title straight from Hank Williams isn't a bad start, and while Bon Jovi's album bears little resemblance to Lovesick, it easily holds its own against modern Nashville.  In fact, what becomes unclear is just how much Bon Jovi "went country" and how much country has "gone rock" in the last couple of decades.  Certainly, any of the songs on this album would have been comfortable fits for artists such as Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney or Keith Urban.

Maybe that's what makes Lost Highway simultaneously an enjoyable listen and a disappointment.  While there are no songs whose lyrics demand particularly close inspection, they do reflect maturely on life (especially on the album opener, "Lost Highway") and love (the particularly well crafted duet with LeAnn Rimes, "Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore").  The arrangements are all fairly clear and don't overwhelm; the one cut on the album where the production is conspicuous is "We Got It Going On," which features Big & Rich, so it's perfectly natural that the song burst at the seams with instrumentation and distractions.  Commercially, there is absolutely no reason each and every song on Lost Highway couldn't reach the top of the country radio charts.

And that's the rub.  Somehow, Lost Highway is so perfectly crafted as a mainstream country album that it leaves one wondering how much Bon Jovi went into it.  There's something a little too familiar to a country audience to this album that begs the question why Bon Jovi had to be the artist.  It's the musical equivalent of an A-list actor being cast in an adaptation of a well known book and you want to see something special in his performance, but then he plays it straight and you think, "Well, anyone could've done it that way.  I wanted to see you do something more...you."  Still, this is a minor caveat.  On the whole, the album is enjoyable and if Bon Jovi is interested in pursuing a crossover career, Lost Highway makes an impressive inroads.

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