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members of Diamond Rio were pretty sure they were onto something
special when they began noticing the names of the writers whose
songs they had picked to record. Unbelievable, the band's
fifth studio album (sixth album including their previous disc
release, Greatest Hits), has indeed developed around
a core of astonishing musical brilliance. Among the writers
who contributed some of their best songs ever to the project
are Academy Award-winner Paul Williams; Grammy-winners Jon Vezner,
Gordon Kennedy, Tommy Sims and Will Jennings; rock legends Huey
Lewis, R. J. "Mutt" Lange and Al Anderson; and such
lavishly talented country poets as Sharon Rice, Bill Rice, Mark
D. Sanders, Bob Regan and Annie Roboff.
its buoyant, lighter-than-air vocal harmonies and intricately
woven instrumentation, Diamond Rio has been transforming great
songs into standards since the release of its self-titled 1991
debut album. In the process, the six-man band has won six "Vocal
Group of the Year" awards from the Academy of Country Music
and the Country Music Association. It has racked up seven Grammy
nominations. All of its studio albums have been certified gold
April, 1998, the group received the highest honor that can be
conferred on a country act when it was inducted into the Grand
Ole Opry. It thus became the first band in 14 years to join
the fabled institution.
tremendous event culminated a year of career reinforcement and
incredible commercial fulfillment. Having re-gained the CMA
"Vocal Group of the Year" award last September, Diamond
Rio for the first time traveled beyond U. S. boundaries to personally
embrace international audiences with two promotional trips to
Germany and one to japan. In fact, while in Cologne, Germany
last December they became the first country artists to appear
on "Geld Oder Liebe," the highest-rated variety television
program in Germany with over 7.2 million viewers. Also, in the
last year, Diamond Rio was the only group to hold the #1 slot
on Billboard's country airplay chart for 3 consecutive weeks
with "How Your Love Makes Me Feel."
Diamond Rio had built up such a large catalog of hits during
its first seven years of recording, the band had the luxury
of developing Unbelievable at a more deliberate pace
than any of its earlier albums.
started this album even before last year's Greatest Hits
was released," recalls Diamond Rio's lead singer, Marty
Roe. "'Imagine That' and 'How Your Love Makes Me Feel'
- which ended up on the Greatest Hits -- were actually
cut to be on this album. We had also cut '(I Will) Start All
Over Again' and 'Long Way Back,' both of which are on this new
album. We didn't realize we needed to put out a hits collection
until our record label president, Tim DuBois, came to us and
said, 'You know, guys, we can't go through another album and
then try to do the hits, because there would be too much we'd
have to leave out.' So, basically, we've been cutting Unbelievablel
since February or March of 1997. That extra time really helped
us raise our criteria for the material and gave us a chance
to live with it.'
Williams, the band's bass guitarist and harmony vocalist, says
that taking your time always pays off: "We listened to
this album to see what Burns' on us - what wears out, what song
we're just over. Through the months it takes to finish cutting
them, some songs go away. And then we cut something else. We
figure if a song is going to go away on us - if it urges us
to reach for the fast-forward button - then it could well be
the same for everybody else."
D. Clute, who has worked on Diamond Rio's entire discography,
returned to his role as co- producer with the band for Unbelievable.
Clute's contributions to Diamond Rio's overall sound have earned
him the honorific title of "seventh member." He and
Arista Records' A&R department did the first round of screening
for songs and then passed the results on to the band.
screening process for us is pretty large," says keyboardist
Dan Truman. "We, ourselves, listen to probably a thousand
or two thousand songs for each album. We'll get on the bus and
listen for three or four hours while we're going down the road.
We're much more involved now than we used to be."
advantage of such involvement, according to Roe, is that the
band sticks only with songs it believes in. "For the past
several years," he asserts, "we've refused to put
an album out until we felt all 10 songs could be singles. There's
not a song on here that causes us to go, 'Oh, no! Not that one."
In both scope and sound, the songs on Unbelievable easily
hold their own with the best on today's country charts. "You're
Gone," the first single, is an elegantly told tale of epic
loneliness that is as emotionally powerful as "The Dance."
It's co-writers are Paul Williams, who won an Oscar for "Evergreen,
and Jon Vezner, who won a Grammy for "Where've You Been."
"(I Will) Start All Over Again" is a rousing testimony
to the resilience of the human spirit. "I Know How The
River Feels" offers such a strong statement of love fully
realized that it is destined to become a classic wedding song.
(The song features a string section, which marks one of the
rare times additional musicians have recorded on Diamond Rio's
there is lighter fare as well. The album's title tune resounds
with total bliss over the discovery ofthe ideal woman. "Two
Pump Texaco" is such a vivid and character-strong procession
of images that our minds instantly see it as a comic music video.
"What More Do You Want From Me" invites us to witness,
from an emotionally safe distance, devotion that is now edging
toward frustration. "Long Way Back," with its down-on-luck
details and wide sweeping chorus, charts the vast distance between
having done wrong in love and desperately needing the chance
to do right. "Miss That Girl" explores the same theme,
but with more vigor and fresher wounds.
producer/songwriter R. J. "Mutt" Lange and singer
Huey Lewis presented "I Thought I'd Seen Everything"
as a rock song, Diamond Rio plumbed the song's twin themes of
discovery and delight and created from them a country kind of
innocence. And the band builds the incantatory "Hold Me
Now" into a riveting "everyman's" plea for momentary
as lead guitarist Jimmy Olander hears it, Unbelievable
"has a little bit more of a contemporary sound than our
other albums. But we didn't decide in advance that it would
be that way. Basically, we go into our initial sessions for
all of our albums saying, "It's going to be the same guys
playing and the same guys singing. So let's see how we can re-invent
the wheel, yet not struggle really hard to completely change
everything." Adds drummer Brian Prout, "It's hard
for me to find personal favorites on this album, because I feel
so good about all of them. I think "You're Gone" will
touch a lot of people since we've all experienced the song's
subject matter at one time or another. I love the fun aspect
of "Unbelievable." We've never done anything
quite like that. And I've told everyone that "(I Will)
Start All Over Again" is the best song we've ever recorded
--just from a performance point of view. Plus, it says so much
about the kind of life we all live today. Of all the records
we've put out to date, I believe this one needs the least amount
of explaining. It speaks for itself."
"On this album," observes mandolinist and harmony
vocalist Gene Johnson, "we realized when we completed it,
the songs all seemed to fit together in some manner. The album
seems to tell a little story within itself."
Rio has gained considerable attention through its high-spirited
music videos, particularly with "Bubba Hyde," the
ACM "Country Video of the Year" nominee "How
Your Love Makes Me Feel" and the seriously off-center "mini-movie"
"It's All In Your Head," which starred Martin Sheen
and Ramon Estevez. However, Marty Roe says the band never picks
a song because of its cinematic potential: "No, we don't
do that. When we hear a song like "Unbelievable,"
we might say, "Man, it'll be fun doing a video for this
one," because it offers so many possibilities for having
fun with it. But a song like "You're Gone" made us
kind of reluctant at first to do a video - because the song
was so strong by itself. When you draw the pictures with a video,
you run the risk of taking away that personal touch that a song
can give you."
Rio evolved from The Tennessee River Boys, a country band that
worked Nashville's Opryland USA amusement park during the early
to mid-1980s. Over the next few years, the band kept changing
and taking on new members. By 1989, it had solidified into its
current makeup. In 1990, the band signed to the then-new country
division of Arista Records and changed its name to Diamond Rio.
Arista Records/Nashville released the albums Diamond Rio
in 1991, Close To The Edge in 1992, Love A Little
Stronger in 1994, IV in 1996 and Greatest Hits
the start, Diamond Rio has involved itself in good works. Its
charity golf tournament is now in its seventh year. During the
last five years, the event has raised $200,000 for the American
Lung Association. The band also serves as national celebrity
spokespersons for Big Brother/Big Sister organization.
the band members were (and remain) excited by their induction
into the Grand Ole Opry, but guitarist Jimmy Olander had a few
special comments on the momentous evening. "I never thought
in a million years that this would happen," he marvels.
"While I was still living in Detroit and working as a banjo
player, I used to ride down to Nashville with a buddy of mine
who played for Jim & Jesse on the Opry. And I thought, Man,
if I could only work for a Grand Ole Opry star someday and ride
one of those Silver Eagle buses! That was big stuff for me."
For lead singer Marty Poe, the induction spurred flashbacks
to his first days working on the grounds of the Grand Ole Opry
in 1984, when he worked at the Skyride at the theme park, one
year prior to becoming a regular cast member performing with
the Cumberland River Boys at Opryland. The only blood-line inductee,
Dana Williams recalled childhood memories watching his two uncles,
The Osborn Brothers, perform on the Opry stage.
ahead, Diamond Rio wants to mount a bigger stage show for the
road -and take it, and their music to more places, including
the far-ranging international market.
most importantly, Diamond Rio is right now intent on demonstrating
to one and all just how believable Unbelievable is.
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