October 16, 2000.
This record, as good as it is -- and it's very good -- embodies the confusion and self-doubt that reigns on Music Row in the face of radio's tight grip on what the public gets to hear.
Proficient on the mandolin, Sonya Isaacs has made music with her bluegrass-gospel singing family since the age of 3. She truly is a natural with a wondrous voice that compares favorably to those of Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, or Rhonda Vincent.
Two years ago, Isaacs began working on this album with Vince Gill. But two singles -- the beautiful ballad "On My Way to You" and the driving, uptempo number "I've Forgotten How You Feel" -- did not perform well when they were released. Spooked and frustrated, Lyric Street called in its own A&R executive, Shelby Kennedy, and Mike Clute, known for his work with Diamond Rio, to provide "a bolder sonic approach."
The finished collection mixes seven Gill sides (some with overdubs by Clute) and five Clute/Kennedy tracks. Generally speaking, the Gill-produced tunes are more appealing. "Barefoot in the Grass," a Clute/Kennedy production of a sentimental tune about sisters separated by death, stiffed as a single. From the new material, only "How Can I Forget" has staying power.
The Gill sides, on the other hand, include the outstanding "Healing Hands," with backing vocals from Gill and Dolly Parton, and the lovely weeper, "Just Go." Both songs are written by Isaacs with Keith Sewell. The set closes with a traditional hymn, "The Battlefield." Drawing on her gospel background, Isaacs gives a beautiful performance.
Compromised though it is, this album is still a winner. Isaacs belongs in the big leagues. She shouldn't suffer because tin-eared radio programmers don't know a great song when they hear it. Here's hoping she gets to stick around long enough to make music on her own terms.
Jay Orr, country.com