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February 22, 2008

Sambora: 'Lost Highway' not country

A lot has been made of Bon Jovi's latest CD, "Lost Highway," being the group's country record.

In reality, guitarist Richie Sambora says calling the album country is a misnomer.

"It's not particularly a country album," said Sambora, who was participating in a conference call with reporters in advance of the tour that will bring them to United Center this weekend. "It's more of a Nashville-oriented kind of record."

Descriptions aside, Bon Jovi has made an attempt to reach out to fans of country music, which as a genre has embraced more of a rock and roll influence in recent years.

First came the 2005 CD, "Have a Nice Day," that featured a country version of the song "Who Says You Can't Go Home," recorded with Jennifer Nettles of the country group Sugarland. The song made Bon Jovi the first rock act to top the country charts when "Who Says You Can't Go Home" spent two weeks at No. 1.

Now Bon Jovi's current CD, "Lost Highway" - even if it's not a full-on country album on a musical level - represents a further foray into the world of country music.

For the project, Sambora and lead singer Jon Bon Jovi traveled to Nashville to try writing with a number of country music's tunesmiths. The trek produced songs written with Gordie Sampson, Hillary Lindsey and Brett James. On the performing side, the group paired up for collaborations with Big & Rich (on the song "We Got It Going On" and LeAnn Rimes (on "Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore").

But Sambora is right in saying "Lost Highway" is not a country album. In fact, several songs - such as the aforementioned rousing anthem "We Got It Going On," the stomping rocker "Summertime" and the ballad "(You Want to) Make a Memory" fit well within Bon Jovi's signature brand of tuneful straight-ahead rock 'n' roll.

Still, there's enough of a country influence in many of the songs, including "Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore," "Whole Lot of Leavin'" and "Everybody's Broken," to have created plenty of speculation about whether Bon Jovi will continue to inject even more of a country influence into future albums.

But in this teleconference interview, which in addition to Sambora, included keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres, the band members suggested that "Lost Highway" might represent the end of the road for Bon Jovi's excursions into country music.

"We kind of did it for fun and as an experiment, and it turned into a real record," Torres said. "And everybody seemed to like it, as well as ourselves. So it was something that happened at that time. I don't think it's a genre that we're going to follow."

The truth is, Bon Jovi never expected "Who Says You Can't Go Home" to become a big hit for the group.
It's not the first time the band has been surprised by the success of a song. Early in the career of the band, which formed in 1983 in Sayreville, N.J., Bon Jovi and Sambora wrote a tune called "Living on a Prayer." As most people know, that song, from the 1986 album "Slippery When Wet," became a signature hit and propelled the group to its place as one of rock's biggest bands. Sambora remembers that Bon Jovi wasn't sold on the song at first.

"After we wrote that song, Jon and I were in a taxicab in New York," Sambora said. "He (Bon Jovi) tells the story on stage all the time: He looked at me and said, 'That's good; we'll probably give it away to a movie soundtrack.' And I went, 'What, are you, crazy? This is going to be a big song, pal.' So, I mean, you never know sometimes.

After "Living on a Prayer," Bon Jovi's career kept accelerating. Hits such as "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Born to Be My Baby" and "Bad Medicine" followed in quick succession, while "Slippery When Wet" and its 1988 follow-up album, "New Jersey," sold a combined 19 million copies in the United States alone.
The band's fortunes, particularly in the States, receded in the 1990s, but the group rebounded emphatically in 2000 with the CD "Crush." The rock anthem "It's My Life" became a huge hit, and the CD sold 8 million copies worldwide.

The band has been on a roll ever since, with the 2003 CD "Bounce," "Have a Nice Day" and now "Lost Highway" all becoming platinum-selling hits. Bon Jovi's American tour already is assured of being one of the most lucrative tours of 2008, and the band appears primed to deliver a big rock spectacle.

"We have a brand new (stage) set for America," Bryan said, noting the band's show will clock in at about two-and-a-half hours. "It's going to involve a lot of media and a lot of visuals. So that's the surprise. We can't tell you too much, but there's pretty amazing screens, and the stage is just awesome. It's probably the best stage we've ever had."

Posted by riesambo at February 22, 2008 09:27 PM