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Diamond Rio

Diamond Rio

Diamond Rio found major commercial success in the country music field by playing an eclectic hybrid of modern country, traditional bluegrass (especially in their tight instrumental interplay and harmony singing), and a hint of rock & roll. Founded in 1982, the group brought out their self-titled debut album in 1991, and the LP's first single, "Meet in the Middle," quickly hit No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, the first in a string of successes that saw them dominate the Country Singles chart, with seven songs reaching No. 1, fifteen making the Top 5, and twenty placing in the Top 10. Consistent Country hitmakers in the 1990s, Diamond Rio shifted gears into Christian music with 2007's The Star Still Shines (A Diamond Rio Christmas) and 2009's The Reason, and they launched their own label and gained creative freedom with 2015's I Made It and the 2023 single "The Kick."

The original lineup of Diamond Rio was composed of Marty Roe (lead vocals, guitar), Jimmy Olander (guitar, banjo), Gene Johnson (mandolin, vocals), Dan Truman (keyboards), Dana Williams (bass), and Brian Prout (drums). Roe had already been touring professionally since age 12, when he was a member of Windsong, and Olander had previously worked with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Foster & Lloyd. The players first got together at Nashville's Opryland theme park, and spent the first part of the '80s performing bluegrass music there under the name the Tennessee River Boys. The future members of Diamond Rio joined one by one, and in 1986, they left Opryland to try their luck as a touring band. Dana Williams was the last official member to join in 1989, upon which point the band changed its name to Diamond Rio (taken from the side of a truck) and landed a contract with Arista.

Although three members of Diamond Rio found themselves dealing with health issues – Gene Johnson injured his thumb in a carpentry accident, Dana Williams hurt his leg while water skiing, and Jimmy Olander developed a tumor that was pressing against his esophagus – they all pulled through, and the band's self-titled debut album was released in 1991 and quickly became a platinum-selling smash. Its lead single, "Meet in the Middle," went all the way to the top of the country charts, making them the first ever country group to have their debut single also be a number one hit, and it also spun off a stunning four additional Top Ten hits -- "Mirror Mirror," "Mama Don't Forget to Pray for Me," "Norma Jean Riley," and "Nowhere Bound." By the time that run ended, the group had already recorded a follow-up, Close to the Edge, which appeared in late 1992. The Top Tens "In a Week or Two" and "Oh Me, Oh My, Sweet Baby" continued the group's incredible run of success, helping the album go gold, while "This Romeo Ain't Got Julie Yet" just missed the Top Ten, their first single to do so. Released in 1994, Love a Little Stronger produced a number two hit in its title track, but since the album was more of a showcase for the group's musicianship and eclectic tastes, it wasn't as commercially successful as its predecessors. The group took a similar approach for 1996's IV, but this time it slowly caught fire; "That's What I Get for Lovin' You" and "Walkin' Away" both went Top Five, and a re-release of the album's first single, "Holdin'," did likewise.

With their commercial momentum restored, Diamond Rio issued Greatest Hits in 1997; both of the compilation's two new songs -- "How Your Love Makes Me Feel" and "Imagine That" -- went Top Five, and the former became their second number one hit. The all-new Unbelievable followed in 1998, and landed two more Top Five hits in "You're Gone" and the title cut, the latter of which inched into the pop Top 40 as well. The group kept going strong on its sixth album, 2001's One More Day, whose title song was the band's third number one; it also crossed over to the Adult Contemporary chart, reaching the Top Ten. Released in 2002, Completely ran that total to four with the chart-topping "Beautiful Mess," and added another Top Ten hit in "I Believe." In 2006, after 15 years together as a band, Diamond Rio issued Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, which contained their first single, "Meet in the Middle," songs that were on records released after the first Greatest Hits, as well as four new tracks.

By this time, Diamond Rio's contract with Arista Records had expired, and they signed with Word Records, one of the world's most successful Christian record labels. Their first LP for Word, The Star Still Shines (A Diamond Rio Christmas), appeared in 2007, and 2009's The Reason was their first album devoted entirely to spiritual songs. Over the next few years, Diamond Rio worked steadily and toured frequently, and after cutting ties with Word, they started their own label, Rio Hot Records, which they launched with 2015's Diamond Rio Live. The band soon returned to the recording studio, and 2015's I Made It was their first album of fresh material in six years. In 2022, Diamond Rio experienced their first personnel changes since the release of their debut album – Brian Prout and Gene Johnson left the group, and Carson McKee joined on fiddle, mandolin, and harmony vocals; Micah Schweinsberg on drums. As Diamond Rio broke in their new members, they released a single in 2023, a lively bluegrass-influenced instrumental called "The Kick." ~ Steve Huey & Mark Deming

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