Lost Highway | [2.5 stars]
“I’m a cowboy,” Jon Bon Jovi famously sang on the 1987 hit “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Turns out he wasn’t kidding. Last year his band went No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” a duet with Sugarland‘s Jennifer Nettles. And the group continues to take a turn toward Nashville on Lost Highway. Saddling up with Rascal Flatts producer Dann Huff for six tracks, Bon Jovi makes twangy tweaks in sound, while employing country-style songwriting on tunes like the wistful first single, “(You Want To) Make a Memory.” While there are few truly memorable songs, it’s all carefully calculated to satisfy both Bon Jovi and Keith Urban fans. Two genre-crossing collaborations produce mixed results: “Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore,” a ballad with LeAnn Rimes, exudes a down-home warmth, but the Big & Rich-assisted “We Got It Going On” brings out the worst in both acts.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Lost Highway”
5th Gear | [2.5 stars]
REVIEWED BY RANDY VEST
After winning the ACM top male vocalist award last month, Paisley doesn’t shift from the tried and true on 5th Gear, sticking to a mix of introspective ballads and uptempo novelties. There’s the sexy—if somewhat creepy—hit “Ticks” (“I’d like to kiss you way back in the sticks … And I’d like to check you for ticks”), the macho “I’m Still a Guy” (“I don’t highlight my hair/I’ve still got a pair”) and the retrospective “Letter to Me” (“You got so much goin’ for you, goin’ right/But I know at 17 it’s hard to see past Friday night”). Yet despite these solid efforts, the album stalls at times, due to a fair amount of filler. Worst of all? “Oh Love,” a generic, soulless duet with labelmate Carrie Underwood.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Letter to Me”
Wild Hope | [2 stars]
In a bid to escape her teen-pop past, singer-actress Mandy Moore attempts a Jewel-like makeover on her new CD. She cowrote all 12 songs—collaborating with singer-songwriter types like Lori McKenna, Rachael Yamagata and Chantal Kreviazuk—and she’s certainly better at pulling off breezy folk-pop than you would imagine Britney Spears ever could be. But with tepid tunes like “All Good Things,” it’s all much more mild than wild. And despite Moore’s best efforts at a more grown-up style, the cheery first single, “Extraordinary,” sounds destined to be the theme song of a CW teen drama.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Latest Mistake”
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