I've been listening to the new Bon Jovi record, Lost Highway, which was released on Tuesday of this week. I'm just finishing my third time through it, and I already like it very much. This is a solid follow-up to Have a Nice Day, which I considered to be the best thing Bon Jovi had done since the late 1980s, and really one of the better rock-n-roll records of the past few decades. Others are entitled to a different opinion, but that's mine. Lost Highway is perhaps not as much "fun," but it does have more texture and variety to it. I'm not ready to say whether I'll end up liking it as well, or better, but if you like Bon Jovi, I think you'll be pleased if you pick up this latest offering for yourself.
Rumors that Lost Highway would be a "country" record have been seriously misleading. That's one of the inherent dangers of trying to pigeonhole everything into categories, but I can't believe that anyone would mistake this new Bon Jovi record for what is normally classified as "country music." Some of the songs do have some hints and characteristics of the more popular modern country, but there's no more than three or four out of thirteen songs that would get any country radio airtime. There's a song with Big and Rich, which is actually one of the more rockin' songs on the record; it reminds me as much of AC/DC, Kiss, and 80s rock as it does anything country! Then again, Big and Rich have revelled in defying categories from the opening song of their first record, and they seem to be everywhere these days. Bon Jovi does another song featuring Leann Rimes, and that may be the most "country" song on Lost Highway, maybe to the same extent that "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with the chick from Sugarland on Have a Nice Day was. There's one or two other songs that might be called "country," depending on one's sensibilities. But this is really no different than when Tim McGraw emulates classic 70s rock, or when Keith Urban sometimes sounds like rock-n-roll. In my opinion, Jon Bon's Young Guns II soundtrack was more of a "country" record than Lost Highway is.
It's still Jon Bon Jovi's vintage rock-n-roll voice and Richie Sambora's vintage rock-n-roll guitar that drive and carry this new record, and the results are sweet music. I like the fact that they continue to grow as artists, without getting weird or turning their names into hieroglyphics. Whatever "country" elements there may be on Lost Highway have found a comfortable place in a rock-n-roll record. It's a more grown up and sophisticated record than the grand good-time Have a Nice Day, but it feels like a natural progression from that excellent predecessor. I've been enjoying Bon Jovi's music since my Beanie was a baby, and I'm frankly impressed that they're still producing consistently good and interesting records. Keep rockin', boys, one more time . . . with feeling.