November 22, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
37°F
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Diamond Rio plays crowds’ heartstrings



TOM MAHL / CHRONICLE
Classic country band Diamond Rio performed before a near sellout Tuesday night at the Lorain County Fair.

WELLINGTON — Rain, rain went away Tuesday night at the Lorain County Fair when Diamond Rio played its hits for a nearly packed house at the Wellington fairgrounds grandstand.

Together for 15 years, this Nashville act,  known for its blend of traditional bluegrass with a dash of rock ’n’ roll, has more of a ’70s country vibe than the current music coming out of the Music City. Still, Diamond Rio has plenty of singles to its credit and didn’t waste any time delving into its hit-laden catalog.

Early songs included the catchy “Beautiful Mess” and the rockin’ “Unbelievable.” The latter track was dedicated to all of the ladies in the house, who reciprocated the love by singing along, loud and proud.

Apparently it didn’t matter to the band. Singer Marty Roe, who grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, later told the audience, “You can sing along, that’s fine by us. We can’t hear you, so that works out really good.” 

Among the highlights of the night were the tongue-in-cheek “Redneck Love Gone Bad,” the banjo-fueled “Bluegrass Express,” the loud “Meet in the Middle” and the piano-driven “I Believe.” The latter track, which received a standing ovation, defines where Diamond Rio is most comfortable in its second decade of success.

Early on, the band was known for its breezy, feel-good hits, but since the turn of the century the sextet — Roe, Gene Johnson on mandolin, banjo, fiddle and guitar, Jimmy Olander on guitar and banjo, Brian Prout on drums, Dan Truman on keyboards and Dana Williams on bass — has unabashedly explored more Christian themes.

If the Lorain County Fair audience was any indication, the band’s fans don’t mind.

“They were a top country band in the ’90s ,and it would have been a shame to miss an opportunity to see them,” said Elyria resident Dana Boesch, 20. “I just like them because they’re country. And country music speaks to the heart.”

Speaking of speaking to the heart, Diamond Rio has become known for tugging on the emotional heartstrings of its fans. This was definitely the case during the humid evening performance, which also featured the heartfelt “One More Day” and the introspective “Mama Don’t Forget to Pray for Me.”

Not surprisingly, the band’s biggest response came from its recent hit “In God We Still Trust,” which has become a conservative patriotic anthem. The song, which was the band’s encore, seemed to epitomize where the band’s thoughts are these days.

If there was a downside to Diamond Rio’s 90 minute-plus show, it was that the group’s set list looked more backward than forward.

Then again, that appeared to be exactly what fans wanted.