Sawyer Brown, Diamond Rio, Tim McGraw

By Earl Meyers

When it comes to country entertainers, Sawyer Brown is among the best. On April 24 at Freedom Hall, lead singer Mark Miller, fired up as usual, strutted out in a cloud of stage fog amid several banks of flashing colored lights in the middle of his first number, "The Boys & Me." He was more energized than he appears on TV, seeming to say, "These are my fans and I'm going to give them all I've got."

So he employed a lot of pelvic moves and made several 360-degree spins in his trademark attire: the off-white hat, long (square cut at the bottom) sport jacket with white-and-brown trim, blue jeans and brown leather belt with silver pointed tip that hangs after the first belt loop.

The sweat trickled down his face by the third number, "My Baby's Gone," and he had lost his coat by the time the band played "Betty's Bein' Bad," exposing the brown vest that he often wears.

Miller took the audience of some 8,000 back to the '60s — when he had a pickup truck — and sang his favorite high school song, "Amie." He picked up his pink-and-tan faced guitar for "On the Dirt Road" and showed off his own walk in "Walk That Walk."

After "Thank God for You," he left the stage briefly to put on a cutesy chin-strapped green cap with hideous ear muffs that stood straight out (while they were unhooked) for "Some Girls Do." It was a hoot.

Diamond Rio lead singer Marty Roe and backup singers tossed several guitar picks and glow sticks into the audience during hits like "In a Week or Two," "It's a Long Hard Road," "Mama, Don't Forget to Pray for Me" and "This Romeo Ain't Got Julie Yet."

I was surprised at how well the crowd accepted each of the three groups. I have been to several shows where the first and second acts didn't get much respect, but not so for Roe & Company. (My wife thinks they're cute, so I think she's converted.) In fact, all three definitely have a solid following and are part of the new sound that makes country No. 1 today.

Congratulations to Marty and his wife; they're expecting their second child in December. Seems Diamond Rio occasionally spends some time on one of Kentucky's lakes, and Marty's wife had recently broken the good news to their lake neighbors Bob and Laverne, who happened to sit next to us at the concert. Marty has some family ties with the Bluegrass State, but is originally from Canton, Ohio.

I caught Tim McGraw in progress as we arrived for the opening act. He has the current hit "Indian Outlaw," which he sang, and included "Refried Dreams" in his half-hour show. McGraw's voice is a tad more traditional in sound, his band is strong, and he appears to have lots of promise.