One More Day (Arista Nashville)
Actually, nearly a thousand days have passed since we last heard from Diamond Rio - their previous album, Unbelievable, was released in 1998. But the growth and diversity on their newest effort offers proof that country's favorite sextet hasn't been spinning its wheels for the last three years.
The rapid-fire rat-a-tat of the opening "That's Just That" is only the first surprise on an album featuring many welcome new twists from a band not exactly known for a sense of adventure. Later, "Here I Go Fallin' " finds lead singer Marty Roe delivering spoken-word verses that contrast charmingly with the soaring harmonies in the chorus. And while
Diamond Rio is well-known for flexing its bluegrass chops on stage, the old J.D. Souther tune "Hearts Against The Wind" is its first full-on foray into the 'grass on record - and it's an arching, aching winner.
Another experiment on the album, the group's first duet, provides One More Day's peak. On "I'm Trying," Marty and guest Chely Wright give voice to a man and woman coping with the effects of his alcoholism. While the topic usually lends itself to maudlin melodrama, "I'm Trying" is unflinchingly honest about the pain of recovery, for everyone involved. Not a day goes by that I don't curse myself and all my sins, Marty sings, and his pain is palpable.
The remainder of One More Day is more of what we expect from Diamond Rio - solid, catchy songs played by agile, even overqualified, musicians. "Sweet Summer" is a bracing slice of nostalgia that would sound great coming from the radio this summer, "I Think I Love You" spices its zen-simple lyric with an indelible surf-guitar melody, and the title song, which recently hit No. 1, is just plain gorgeous.
All in all, One More Day marks a career peak for Diamond Rio, no small feat for a band that has remained creatively inspired for more than a decade. Let's hope next time they dare to climb out on a few more limbs like "Hearts Against The Wind" and "I'm Trying," and that it's not three more years before we hear them do it.
-- Chris Neal