Back in the late 1980s, singer-songwriter Larry Dean was riding alongside the very swift company of Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Marty Stuart and other rising country music stars.


"I was in what they called 'The Class of '89'," Dean said during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.


His "Outside Chance" album was released that year and found a comfortable spot on the country music charts. The Texas-born musician began appearing on country music TV shows, including the popular "Nashville Now," and Larry Dean seemed destined to become a household name. But instead of landing with one of the mover-and-shakers of the industry, he signed with an agent who didn't have the pull to get a big record deal.


"So I was on a small label."


Over the next 15 years or so despite the lack of fame Deaned carved a respectable career as a songwriter. Several of his songs were featured in movies, including his "It Must Be Angel Day," which appeared in the 1998 film "Deep Impact" starring Robert Duval.


For that tune, he hooked up with songwriter Larry Weiss, whose biggest song was Glen Campbell's hit "Rhinestone Cowboy." But Weiss certainly wasn't the only notable songwriter Dean has crafted songs with. Dean wrote "Outside Chance" with Wayne Carson Thompson, who co-penned one of the most memorable hits in history, "Always On My Mind."


"Wayne told me 'Your biggest hits are always going to be positive.'"


And Dean, who will perform from 6 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24 at Big Mike's Country Palace in Apple Valley, believes a truly great country music song has to have even more.


"It has some heart," said Dean, whose "Outside Chance" album is being reissued Hesperia-based Star Creek Records. "The lyric is the most important element in a country song. Plus a great melody is wonderful. Of all of the genres, in country you can't cheat on your lyric."


Perhaps not surprising for a songwriter, Dean has done his share of soul-searching, especially over the past several years.


"You might say I got right with God," Dean said. "I'm seeing things from a whole new perspective. I'm doing things for the right reasons."


As a result, he added, "I'm rejuvenating my career."


And that translates into a renewed enthusiasm and purpose.


"Now I know it's more about what I can give to country music. It's more about what I can give to country music. It's more about a peace with myself. I don't feel competitive any more. I want to go where God takes me."


Big Mike's Country Palace is located at 21041 Bear Valley Road in Apple Valley.