by Robert Bell
7 p.m. Oaklawn. $20.
The year 1991 must've been a hellacious time to try to break out in the country music scene. There were a lot of big albums that year from newcomers and established giants as well. You had Alan Jackson's smash "Don't Rock the Jukebox" to contend with, as well as Brooks and Dunn's massive "Brand New Man" and Travis Tritt's "It's All About to Change," plus big albums from well-known names like George Strait, Reba McEntire and Randy Travis. Oh, and a young bull named Garth Brooks was busy wrecking the china shop with his wildly popular fusion of traditional honky-tonk twang and high-flying stadium rock and selling about 14 zillion albums in the process.
It was into this highly competitive milieu that Diamond Rio emerged. But even with formidable opposition, the band staked out a solid claim on the country music landscape, with the hit "Meet in the Middle," which became the first debut single ever to go to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. There followed a string of gold albums and Top 10 singles that eventually trailed off.
The other thing to keep in mind about the band is that, while there were a lot of great mullets back in the early '90s country scene, none were finer than those sported by the members of Diamond Rio, with the possible exception of Billy Ray Cyrus. Now, the band has put out some well received records in recent years, including the gospel album "The Reason." But they haven't been able to replicate the chart success they saw in the '90s.
To be clear, I'm not saying that Diamond Rio was like Samson and that their country music hit-making powers were somehow tied to their mullets and that if they grew them back they'd start having big hits again. But hey, it couldn't hurt, you know, just to make sure.