SPARKS IN THE RADIO Jim Photoglo
One of Nashville's classiest tunesmiths and versatile musicians, and one of its truly pristine singers. It's very interesting to see Jim Photoglo reinventing himself to some extent as a growing figure in the national modern folk and singer songwriter scene. He and legendary bassist Freebo (now also a singer songwriter) have been all over the country the last few years becoming a duo in demand, doing their Felix and Oscar of folk music routine, switching off bass and guitars, doing their very diverse styles of song. They're picking up influential advocates in all the right corners of that world.
Jim made a big name for himself in Nashville, especially with the blockbuster hit he wrote with his friend Wendy Waldman for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Fishin' in the Dark." A cursory glance through the list of formidable cowriters on this disc speaks volumes: Bob DiPiero, Gary Burr, Vince Melamed, Mike Reid, Gary Harrison and more. There's a long list of hits between them. Jim can be seen in the round with this hitmaker crowd in Nashville at The Bluebird, or in a band that contains part of all their names, Meldiburrpho. Other beloved acts he's been a part of here include a very Beatles-y band called The Vinyl Kings (the subject of our 2002 interview with Jim) and a Hillbilly band that did hilariously good Motown covers called Run C&W. Sometimes he moonlights as a bassist and high singer for Dan Fogelberg.
And that pure tenor is in full force on Sparks in the Radio, as is his elevated sense of what harmony singing is--it's more than intonation, the parts seem to beat together, the vibratos match. My ears just stood up at some of those parts, like a dog, or like they were learning, taking it in. The very deft George Marinelli (Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt, to name a couple) turns in some classic tracks here, and Josh Leo echoes some of his original magic on "Fishin' in the Dark" and a couple of other songs.
My favorite tracks are up front, "Hillbilly Hollywood" and "This Train Keeps Rollin," about the Trans-Canadian railroad and in memory of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel. This is classic country songwriting and singing, nothing to do with the poseur gimmickry or the payola of the moment. If you check out the clips on the Listen page, you'll be busting out the plastic. Frank Goodman