What emerges here is a story of survival, a celebration of triumph—sustained stunningly through the 11 jubilant compositions of the Vinyl Kings' new project, Big New Life, unfolding throughout 2023.
Ain’t gonna be held down to no past regrets
Ain’t gonna be the victim in this sorry vignette
I’m through with the could’ve been and the should’ve been and the whys
Gonna take this new freedom
Gonna learn how to fly
~"Big New Life"
Video created by Vinyl Kings
On January 29th, the Vinyl Kings—an accomplished band of veteran Nashville musicians, songwriters, and producers were pleased to premiere "Smoke Rings for Renee." The lovely and powerful song —a celebration of a life … and life itself—was the impetus for a new body of work collectively called Big New Life.
The stimulus for "Smoke Rings"—written by VKs founding member Jim Photoglo—had been the passing of his bandmate Josh Leo's wife, Renee LaRose Leo, an artist and educator, who stepped off this mortal plane on January 29, 2021. Today, the long anticipated project—a wave of multiple new releases during the coming months— continues with a song and a declaration: It's a "Big New Life."
"Big New Life" is a Wilburys-esque ensemble composition and delivery. Leo and Photoglo and bandmates Larry Lee and Harry Stinson each wrote and sang lead on a separate verse of the song. Though reminiscent of a Traveling Wilburys tune, it is less by design and more by an organic emergence from skilled and successful musicians—each traveling independent and dynamic career and vocation paths, only to merge onto a roundabout circling a microphone where they make music with brothers they respect, and with whom they share a love and aptitude for the process.
As writers of "Big New Life," the Vinyl Kings had one lone charge: To sustain the stance of survival "Smoke Rings" had set like a steely jaw turned to face whatever life has to present. The tune succeeds superbly.
Photoglo says it this way:
Gonna put my cell phone in the kitchen drawer
Turn off the screens and head on out the door
Spend some time under the stars above
Look in the eyes of the ones I love
"These are personal songs about us and what we’re going through as musicians—coming to terms with life, growing old, and looking back and looking forward," says Leo.
"We had 'grown up,'" adds Stinson. "We had some real things to say and put down in song. Songs about real life. To once again collaborate with this band was in line with what our original purpose was 32 years ago: To have fun and entertain ourselves, which in turn entertains others."
Lee agrees: "We really wanted to do something positive. Something with a promise of better things to come. All revolving around love."
Though separation and loss are stimuli for this collection, it emerges as a story of survival, a celebration of triumph—stunningly sustained through 11 compositions of gratitude, perseverance, and joy. The song "Big New Life" is a noteworthy gem in the mosaic shrine to Grace that is Big New Life.
Vinyl Kings: Larry Lee (top left), Josh Leo (top right), (bottom l-r) Harry Stinson, Michael Rhodes, Jim Photoglo
Members of the band—Photoglo, Stinson, Lee, Leo, and Rhodes—have individually produced, written songs for, played on recordings by, or toured with such artists as Bob Dylan, Elton John, Neil Young, Carole King, Sting, Shania Twain, Vince Gill, Steve Winwood, Tina Turner, Mark Knopfler, Dan Fogelberg, Glenn Frey, and so many more.
The Vinyl Kings' sophomore album, the 2002 A Little Trip—a nod to The Beatles who inspired each of the VKs to pursue a life in music—received rave reviews and developed somewhat of a cult following. After all, it's a little hard to buy the concept of an album of Beatles-esque music, but Beatles fans who found it loved it. Intensely.
"The genius of the record is that the Kings managed to create an album of original tunes echoing the evolving sound and feel of the Beatles—neither impression, nor caricature, but a pure, loving homage," writes Dale McCurry, from his review of A Little Trip for NoteWorthy Music.
For information and interviews, please contact the Vinyl Kings at firstname.lastname@example.org.