New Jersey quartet Bon Jovi became the first rock band ever to top the Billboard country singles chart with its irresistibly buoyant 2006 duet with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” So why not go further? Lost Highway finds Bon Jovi edging deeper into country territory, as keening fiddle lines share space with Richie Sambora’s lead guitar— and it sounds just fine.
The trouble isn’t with the genre mingling, it’s with the songs. Clichés are piled atop clichés (there’s a summertime song called, uh, “Summertime”), and the title track’s nod to Hank Williams isn’t the only familiar element: Lyrical ideas are cribbed from Dierks Bentley (“Whole Lot of Leaving”) and Don Henley (“The Last Night”), and musical ideas from Joan Jett (“We Got It Going On,” a train-wreck duet with Big & Rich), Radiohead (“Everybody’s Broken”) and Bon Jovi themselves (“Living on a Prayer” fans rest easy—Richie breaks out the talk box yet again). Lost Highway isn’t a total loss, but it certainly is a missed opportunity.