Low Man's Joe: Where I Stand

Before "Wanted Dead or Alive," before "It's My Life," before Jon Bon Jovi went off to Hollywood and took the Lost Highway through Nashville in 2007, Bon Jovi was a pretty decent hard-rock band. Poppier than most, definitely, but Jon's Springsteenian tales of boardwalk knockabouts and Richie Sambora's streetwise riffs combined to make a denim-clad, working-class alternative to stacked-heel Sunset Strip skirt-chasers like Mötley Crüe. Judging by its debut CD, Where I Stand (released last year), Houston's Low Man's Joe is quite familiar with pre-Slippery When Wet Jovi – the woman in "No Heroes" even works in a diner. (All day.) Not only is singer Bret Gyrich's voice a dead ringer for Jon's, growling the verses and exalting the choruses, but the music clings tightly to the Jersey boys' Thin Lizzy/Journey axis, with just a hint of Jovi's thrashier neighbors Skid Row. The lyrics, meanwhile, peer into the lives of people who don't have a lot (except each other) or a lot to lose, people for whom salvation is a Saturday night on the town. The frustrated desire of "Temptation," on-our-own defiance of "No Heroes," last-chance powerdrive of "Radio Saved (My Life Tonight)" — it's all well-trodden territory, to be sure (and was when Jovi got there too), but why fix something that was never really broke?

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