SONYA ISAACS ''Sonya Isaacs'' (Lyric Street)
If Nashville's feuding popsters and traditionalists
ever decide to hold peace talks, they should hire
Sonya Isaacs to mediate. On her debut as a mainstream
country artist, she finds the elusive middle ground
between country's earthy past and glossy present on
tunes that make bluegrass harmonies and the mandolin,
fiddle and steel guitar seem fresh and exciting.
Isaacs' musical roots are in her family's bluegrass
and gospel group, and she can sound as delicate as
Alison Krauss at one moment (''Let's Not Lose Each
Other Anymore'') and as brawny as Patty Loveless at
another (''How Can I Forget'').
She's at her best here on tracks produced by Vince
Gill, including the love-gone-south lament ''I've
Forgotten How You Feel'' and the tender ''On My Way to
Tunes produced by Mike Clute and label exec Shelby
Kennedy (''That's What Love Demands'' and the maudlin
''Barefoot in the Grass'') are more radio-conscious
and less inspired. Still, this is a striking debut
from an artist who immediately stands out from
Nashville's ho-hum female lineup. Isaacs is a talent
worth getting to know.
-- Greg Crawford, Knight Ridder Newspapers