NASHVILLE When it comes to heart-wrenching ballads, country music takes the prize. In recent years, country fans have been "Amazed," helped to "Breathe" and exhorted to "Dance." Now Diamond Rio, a group with more than a dozen country hits to its credit, is adding its name to the sock-in-the-gut "event ballad" pack.
"One More Day" (RealAudio excerpt), a poignant ode to loved ones who have passed on, is one of those sentimental weepers that seems to have found a soft spot in all who experience it.
"When we first heard it, it just touched me," said Diamond Rio lead singer Marty Roe. "I took it home and played it for Robin, my wife, and we both kinda teared up. It's a very simple concept, but an idea that we all ought to try to live by a little more often: don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today."
The song has steadily gained momentum since its October release and reached #11 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart this month. But in one of those goose-bump raising coincidences that often surround emotional projects, the song began raising a buzz a month before its official release.
It started when morning-drive personality Shawn Parr, at Los Angeles' KZLA, read on-air a sentimental e-mail he had received.
"It was talking to a child, saying, 'Today I'm not going to worry. Today when we go through the checkout line you can have a piece of candy. I'm going to take you to McDonald's and we're both going to get Happy Meals,'" said Roe. "At the end it says, 'I'm going to thank God at night, when we say our prayers, that we had this time together, and my prayer will be for one more day with you.' He read the whole thing on the air."
Parr said he was so moved by the e-mail, he actually left work to have lunch with his own young son that day. He then went to a previously scheduled afternoon meeting with Diamond Rio's then-manager, Ken Kragen.
After telling Kragen about the e-mail, he was shocked when Kragen handed him an advance copy of the song "One More Day," which was completely unrelated to the e-mail, save for sharing the words "one more day."
"His mouth dropped open," Kragen said. "The next day he played the song and read the e-mail, and in a week he got about 1,600 e-mails. One was from a woman whose 15-year-old son was killed in a car accident and how she wished she had one more day with him. They started reading those on the air and it created a bit of a phenomenon on the morning show."
"It's been incredible a really amazing thing," Parr agreed.
Indeed, "One More Day" could be this year's "I Hope You Dance." It's already been used to memorialize well-known figures who have died, such as the Oklahoma State University basketball team players and officials killed in a plane crash in January.
"It is a great song. And you know, that's what we've tried to bank on," said Roe. "It hasn't been 100 percent, but we've been pretty close, finding the great songs. We've been lucky enough to have writers in town who do that for us. It's a true song that everybody can relate to."
"One More Day" is the title track from Diamond Rio's seventh album, released on February 6. The disc was originally titled Stuff after the release's first single (RealAudio excerpt), a clever, uptempo ditty about consumerism which fizzled at radio.
"I guess in some markets they don't have a lot of stuff!" quipped Roe.
"Stuff" notwithstanding, One More Day is chock-full of solid songs and musicianship, both Diamond Rio trademarks. And if "One More Day" doesn't take the year's event ballad cake, another tune on the disc just may. "I'm Trying" (RealAudio excerpt), a duet with Chely Wright, is a heart-breaking tale of substance abuse and its toll on a couple's relationship.
"It just really hit us hard," Roe said of the first time the band heard the song. Making it a duet, they felt, would make the song that much stronger and that much more believable.
Chely Wright was at the top of their list for potential duet partners, Roe added.
"I was tickled to death that she did it with us," he said. "She was more than willing to come and do it. It wasn't right in her key exactly, but she was a real trooper to kind of go someplace different with her voice than she's been before. I think it plays great for the song; it really helps the intimacy. And I think it's going to cause people to see a whole 'nother side of her."