Diamond Rio will appear at the Finish Line Theater at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs on Thursday. Show time is 7 p.m.

For more than two decades, Diamond Rio has been one of the most popular acts in country music. Their unique sound is a blend of classical, bluegrass, rock and country. The group’s level of success has totaled more than 30 hit singles.

From their early days of traveling in a van to their current comforts of a touring bus and a state-of-the-art stage set, all six members have developed a tighter-than-family attitude.

"We were a band first, and if we had a record deal or not didn’t change who we were. That’s really how we’ve always been and will be. We love playing our music together, and I think we’ll be doing this a long time from now, because we feel it’s special," lead vocalist Marty Roe said in the group’s public relations biography.

In addition to Roe, Diamond Rio consists of Dana Williams, bass guitar and vocals; Gene Johnson, mandolin and vocals; Jimmy Olander, lead guitar; Dan Truman, keyboards; and Brian Prout, drums.

Throughout the decade of the 1990s, Diamond Rio was a major force on country radio. They recorded contemporary music that retained their traditional roots, winning the Country Music Association’s Vocal Group of the Year award four times. Those accolades were the result of the group continuing to find ways for their sound to evolve and progress.

"You want to feel with each project when you sit back and listen to it that you can say, ‘I like where we have come from, but I love where we are going,’" Roe stated. "We keep it fresh by trying new things and going new places."

Evidently, the group’s theory has worked. Their list of hits includes "Meet in the Middle," "Love a Little Stronger," "How Your Love Makes Me Feel," "I Believe" and "Beautiful Mess."

"We’ve always been picky about songs," Johnson said. "We’ve always tried to have a good mix of stuff on our albums, something that’s fun, something that’s very radio friendly, something that’s going to touch someone’s heart."

One of the standout tracks from their career is "One More Day." The tune was a resurgence for the group after they slowed down a bit in 2000. As a matter of fact, the term "resurgence" might be an understatement. The moving ballad is likely their biggest hit, as well as one of America’s healing songs after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"After all this time, it is still such a delight to play that song," Williams said. "It’s a wonderful thing to watch the reaction of fans when you’re doing it. A lot of people are crying and a lot of people are singing along. There’s a definite vibe with that song that you don’t find with anything else we play."

Referring to impact that "One More Day" has had, Prout added: "The timing of that song was amazing. It went from a purely relationship type song to a very spiritually oriented song. We performed it on the CMA Awards just weeks after 9/11, and watching that standing ovation go like a wave up from the bottom floor to the balcony of the Grand Ole Opry House was probably one of the most moving moments in our career."

The group began as the Tennessee River Boys and spent a lot of time as regular performers at the Opryland USA theme park. After some personnel changes, they evolved into Diamond Rio and settled into their current lineup in 1986. Three years later, they signed with Arista Records.

"I have to tell you how proud I am of the music we’ve made over the years," Truman stated. "It’s music that I will love forever. Every time we finish a new record, I think it’s the best we’ve ever done. And I guess as long as that continues, and people want to hear it, we will keep doing it."

Beebe writer Charles Haymes is a member of the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. E-mail him at chaymes@sbcglobal.net.