The Isaacs

Way back when, this comment coupled with this article (hat tip, Martin) got me thinking about the Isaacs. Specifically, why didn’t or haven’t they left a more profound impression on the musical world? Or have they, and I just don’t know where to look? In this alleged age of the cross-over, poly-generic, stylistically diverse, mult-repurposeable artist, the Isaacs would seem to be or (in their heyday, which I sense has now passed) have been the perfect example from Christian Entertainment of artistic dexterity – a group able to gain and hold the attention of a sustainable portion of gospel, country, bluegrass, and some folk audiences and, with Gaither’s exposure, the inspo-anthem world. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But have they in fact done that? Or instead did the Conventional Wisdom create a self-fulfilling myth about the Isaacs that was enabled by their affiliation with the Homecoming Tour but not supported by reality?

I honestly don’t know enough about the genres adjacent to sg in which the Isaacs work to speak authoritatively about this. But while I wait for someone to speak up who can, my own sense has always been that Sonya (obviously) and Ben have pro-quality skills and talents (as did the quiet boyish looking guy who played banjo but left a while back) but that that talent wasn’t enough to give the group as a whole the star-quality appeal they would have needed to become the sort of artist’s artists who thrive – musically and economically – in the space between conventional approaches and styles.

It’s hard to define, this lack of a certain something I’m trying to describe. But I sense it with some kinds of gospel groups, the ones who demonstrate obvious instinctual, native talent (”God-given,” in the vernacular), self-possessed artists with an ease to their artistry than many musicians twice their age and with greater formal training spend lifetimes never approaching. And yet this native ability only takes one so far and then another kind of intuition — not artistic, but strategic, entrepreneurial and self-promotional — is necessary to translate God-given talent into mass-market appeal.

On stage for the Isaacs, this lack of that certain something is most evident in Lily’s turgid emcee work. It’s often labored and ponderous and tills far too familiar ground while also relying on the assumption that an east-coast Jewish evangelical bluegrass emcee mother of pickin-and-grinnin’ country kids holds an intrinsic fascination for audiences that I’m not sure was ever that great and certainly has felt schticky for quite some time now. But that’s only emblematic (Sonya’s and Becky’s emcee fill-in is often barely more than serviceably better). More substantively, the Isaacs tried to pivot off their Gaither success into a kind of singer-songwriter thing with Heroes that they couldn’t sustain in the long run or simply didn’t stick with long enough.

I’ve always wondered if Sonya’s wasn’t of the sort of near-genius musical talent that was so creatively active and capable of seeing and doing so many different exciting things at once that she never could decide or stick with any one thing long enough to solidify a career to match her immense artistic capacity. Certainly she seems to have had the access and the ability to make it in country had she wanted to. And with the right cultivation, the Isaacs could have probably become much more of a Crabb-family mainstay in sg/country gospel (knowing what little I do about the ascendancy of purists in the folk and bluegrass world, I suspect the Isaacs’ eclecticism is or would have been responsible for keeping them out of a top-tier spot in the bluegrass world). Though of course, the Crabb Family exploded on the scene … and then imploded under the pressure of their own success, so perhaps that comparison proves, rather than counterpoints, what I’m trying to say about the Isaacs.

I guess it’s possible they already occupy a prime position in Christian entertainment and I’ve missed it, but I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, my hunch is that the worlds that we pontificators tend to think of as porously interrelated and ripe with possibilities for crossover synergy are actually far more insular and hostile to synergetic interlopers than we imagine. And that it takes an enormous amount of all the right stuff (not just looks and a good voice and God-given ability) to make the cross-over thing work. Sure there are the Gaithers and Mat Kearnys and the Oaks of the world. But oughtn’t there to be a sublunary tier of artists (like the Isaacs) who don’t necessarily remake the heavens with their crossings-over but sustain an above-averagely successful crossover career if the crossover theory is as descriptively accurate as we think it is? And if there isn’t any empirical evidence of this sort, how sustainable is the cross-over thesis?

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Comments

  1. Norm Graham wrote:

    I think Sonja is an amazing talent and the individual whom the group should focus on with her taking most of the lead vocals and doing the emcee work.

    Now this gets her into a competion with women like Alison Krause and Rhonda Vincent. While she could hold her own with Vincent, it would be a challenge to take on Krause considering the quality of the musicians in Union Station notably Jerry Douglas (best dobro player in the world and CMA musician of the year). Krause and her group, if you’ve been fortunate enough to see them in concert, do a fair bit of gospel but not enough to turn off her many secular fans. Alison’s laid-back emcee work fits in perfectly with her music.

    Sonja came close to such fame, singing with Dolly on some cuts, but couldn’t make that breakthrough when she tried the country field. I still think she is a great talent with an amazing voice.

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    They get enough attention from the bluegrass world to get nominated annually for the IBMA awards (and not just in a Gospel category).
    http://www.ibma.org/ibma.awards/currentpress/nomineeslist.asp

    Sonya recently won a Female Vocalist award from ICM (which I think stands for Inspirational Country Music).
    http://www.ccma.cc/

    They toured internationally this past summer in Scandanavia…I don’t know to what degree of success.

    They play the Grand Ole Opry.

    You’ve already mentioned Gaither’s tour.

    I don’t know how much money they’re making, but they seem to be making an impact in more than one genre…SG, bluegrass, and Country gospel for sure. Plus, their last single went to mainstream Country radio…I don’t know how well it did.

    Artists who succeed in multiple genres are rare, as you’ve said, but I think the Isaacs probably do represent that second tier below the mega-successful examples such as the Oaks and Amy Grant who have done this in the past.

  3. Tony Watson wrote:

    The Isaacs have certainly had their loyal following and in their days of being featured in Gaither videos they became even more popular.

    With that said, to me the real reason for their popularity not being more than it is - it’s one word - bluegrass. . .

  4. Grigs wrote:

    They’ve played the Opry as regulars, Sonya’s dueted with Vince Gill on A&E, they’ve acheived SG and Bluegrass success, they have product endorsements(with commercials I hear every time I tune into WSM), Gaither regulars, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things…what else do you expect? For a Bluegrass family group from Ohio, they’ve done quite well for themselves.

  5. Trent wrote:

    The Isaacs can be likened to the Imperials of the early ’70s in many ways. They have swung out on a rope that has taken them far from the limb they started on.

    The Imperials of 1965 and the Imperials of 1975 were incredibly different groups. How could you compare some of the great Jake Hess-lead songs of the ’60s with a song like “No Shortage” (an equally great song, just way different).

    Likewise, the bluegrass-heavy Isaacs sound of the mid-1990s and the progressive bluegrass/acoustic SG/country flavor gospel sound that is meshed into the melting pot we call the Isaacs sound today are polar opposites stylistically, and has left many fans confused about their direction. It’s left a wealth of their earlier fans disillusioned.

    None of these changes are necessarily BAD; it’s just hard to put them in a category or box style-wise, and humans enjoy placing all things into neat packages and shelves in their minds.

    I heard an interview a few years back with one of the members of Palmetto State Quartet, and he said that Martin Cook walked up to him once and said, (paraphrasing) “You know what’s wrong with you guys? You’re trying to do too many things. People don’t know what kind of music to expect when they come to hear you sing. Pick out a style and stick with it.”

    Maybe this idea would enhance the Isaacs’ popularity with the SG crowd. But to be honest, I kind of enjoy their diversity myself.

  6. Practical Fellow wrote:

    I guess I thought the Isaacs were closer than ever to finding their artistic and commercial nitch with their last record, Big Sky. The photos and marketing look like they’re trying to target the Nickel Creek market, which is sort of a progressive “newgrass”/mountain music thing.

  7. jb wrote:

    Went to hear them in a church a year ago and while I totally agree that they have a huge amount of talent, I would not go back to hear them again. I too think that Lily needs to let the kids do their thing and leave the emceeing to someone else.

  8. Gina wrote:

    “quiet boyish looking guy who played banjo but left a while back”… I wonder if you are referring to John R. Bowman (who is married to Rebecca) here. If so, he is quite the accomplished musician and singer, having played for such groups as Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and even Alison Krauss.

  9. thom wrote:

    I don’t know what your definition of success is but to me The Isaacs are one of the most successful groups out there today. As others have pointed out (#2, #4, #6 above) they have acheived much more success than your average, run-of-the-mill SG group.

    To my ear, I find their sound and production quality to be better than ever.

  10. ST wrote:

    Whether anybody else thinks Sonya is a singing star or not, SHE certainly thinks she is. My understanding is that the whole family praises and kneels before Sonya. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got talent, but I sure do like people better who have talent and don’t know it.

  11. Payton wrote:

    I have also wondered how they stay in the “black hole” they seem to work in. They do the Gaither thing and some other large things related to the country/bluegrass market but still seem to fly under the radar in SG music.

  12. thom wrote:

    payton: that “black hole” you refer to has them touring the world and being far more successful than most SG groups.

  13. preachernc wrote:

    I am familiar with the Isaacs after hearing them sing for at least 18-20 years. Once they were regulars at the Singing in Hominy Valley hosted by the Primitives. They used to be one of my favorites, especially when Joe Isaacs was still on the scene.
    I once went t o hear them at the Hominy Valley Singing, which is usually help outside, but it was moved to a high school gym because of a storm in the area. During the singing Lilly Isaacs told the audience a story of how Sonya was offered a contract with a company in the Country Music business. She was told that she wouldn’t have to sing any, “you broke my heart so I broke your jaw” type songs or songs about drinkin’ dogs, and divorce. She was assured that she could sing “Love Songs.” But, due to her convictions, Sonya turned the contract down to remain true to her Gospel roots I, along with the audience applauded her decision and I even congratulated her personally for staying true to her convictions!

    A few years later at the Singing in the Smokies I saw the Isaacs again. This time Sonya was absent but Tim Surrett (her husband) was singing with the group. A few jokes were made about the fact that Tim was on the road with his mother-in law, while Sonya was “being blessed by God” to be touring with Vince Gill. Lilly shared with the audience how that God had opened this door of opportunity for Sonya.
    Now I was left shaking my head! The same young lady I had applauded for sticking with her convictions and turning down the Country music world was now being given an “opportunity from GOD” to tour with Vince Gill.
    Wrong had suddenly become right, black had turned white, bitter waters had become sweet?
    I am one of “those” people that believe Sonya did the right thing the first time by remaining true to the Lord and Gospel music. I have no time or respect for those that like to try to “blur the lines” between Gospel music and the world’s music. I KNOW that is not a popular stand, but that is how I feel.
    Perhaps, if the Isaacs had remained true to themselves and the Lord they would not have had to face some of the things they have had to endure.
    But more importantly they have lost much of their influence and marred their testimony!
    I no longer care to listen to any of their music.
    James 3:11-12
    Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? [12] Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

  14. Blueboy wrote:

    The Issacs are one of the few SG artists that I can stand to listen to over and over again and never get tired of hearing. In my book they are one of the few SG/Bluegrass artists that could cross over to a wider secular Country based audience and be successful. I suspect they need a better manager/publicist to get them over the top, and yes, as much as I love her, Lily would have to step away and let the kids carry on.

  15. wackythinker wrote:

    Comparing Sonya’s talent to Rhonda Vincent and Alison Krauss, I’d say she’s at least as good as either. And a much better vocalist than Krauss.

    I would agree with the comments that the bluegrass factor is what holds them back in s/g. There’s definately not as much bluegrass played on s/g radio as there is country, traditional southern, and contemporary southern. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  16. Canuk wrote:

    Re: #13

    Turned down the contract? She made a whole country CD. I saw it advertised on the net awhile back. I can’t remember where at the moment; maybe in the Isaacs store.

  17. Payton wrote:

    Thom,

    That would be your opinion. Many SG groups have played in other countries. The “many” loyal fans in Denmark hardly pay the bills. The Isaacs do not work most of the normal SG concert circuit within the exception of the Gaither circus and I don’t consider that the normal SG concert world.

  18. Amanda wrote:

    #13: I know what you’re talking about. When I heard the Isaacs (back in the early nineties), I remember the family making a big deal about how Sonya had the opportunity to sing country music, but she turned down the offer. We all applauded for her, too. Then, years later I learn that Sonya is trying to make it big in country music. I was left scratching my head at this news. I don’t even listen to the Isaacs anymore; I know I shouldn’t be this way, but I kind of look at them (mostly Sonya) as sell-outs. Let’s face it: if Sonya could have made it big in country music, she wouldn’t be singing with the family right now.

  19. Chuck Peters wrote:

    It amazes me.. the number of people who use the “blur the lines” title.. in a negative context. They apparently just don’t get it.

    And.. Becky is a different style than Sonya.. and I love to hear her voice, it’s unique. Sonya is very talented.. but her tone and delivery is very familiar.. I can hear it on Country radio.. all day long.

  20. dkd wrote:

    Sonya not only toured with Vince Gill she also has a song out with Vince Gill, I heard it on the Country station recently. I say go Sonya! Don’t let the Sour Grapes attitudes of others hold you back.

  21. johnny wrote:

    The Isaacs are one of the most talented groups in Southern Gospel PERIOD. The Crabb Family might have strummed their own instruments, but The Isaacs really PLAY their instruments. What a concept…you can actually go to a SG concert and not have to hear the “canned” music that most SG groups rely on today. For those of you who keep commenting on whether or not you think that they have really “broken through”….consider this, they play on one of the biggest tours in SG music–Gaither Homecoming Tour, they’ve had songs in the top 10 of the SG charts, which doesn’t say much as the SG charting is the most lame in music. Also, they’re respected and loved by the Grand Ole Opry and regularly appear as BGV’s for other mainstream artists, plus on this latest album they had Mark Bright as a producer…for those of you who only have your head up the SG bubble, Mark Bright produces Carrie Underwood—’nuff said.’ Now, I don’t know what the rest of you consider “really breaking through”, but that isn’t too shabby in my opinion. What other SG artists do you see that can fit that bill?? If you can name a group then I’ll say “Touche’”!!!

    As for preachernc’s comment about Sonya going country….the Bible says that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Or at least that’s what my Bible says. So, unless you’ve somehow magically read her most inner thoughts, I would suggest that you reserve your judgement for yourself. Yes, I too heard Lily say that she turned down a contract at one point. I certainly am not present when Sonya has her personal time with God, so I just trust that she worked all of that out with HIM. I personally was disappointed when her record on Lyric Street didn’t go anywhere. Then, she tried for round two and they just shelved the second album. Sonya certainly could have stood “head and shoulders above” the current crop of female country vocalists out there now. She has the look, not to mention the talent.

    I find The Isaacs to be very entertaining. Yes, Lily will have to move on eventually, but that’s the good thing about SG….they can still be “current” and not have to do away with momma just because she’s not as young an hip as the rest of the group. Y’all need to get your head out of the SG bubble and see if for what it is….CHRISTIAN ENTERTAINMENT. It’s ok to be a Christian and be entertained.

  22. ST wrote:

    #18 You are exactly right. If she could have made it in country, that’s where she would be. The thing is you are either for the Lord or against the Lord!

    I also remember shortly after she went on tour with Vince Gill that the national tabloids put out headlines that Sonya was Vince’s new girlfriend on the road even though Vince is married to Amy Grant.

    I don’t necessarily believe tabloids, but there is a lesson here. If you play with the devil’s crowd, you will get burnt by the devil’s crowd.

    Michael Combs had a big song back in that time called, “Not For Sale.” It talked about how some have sold out to the world. One line said, “that singer’s now singing country” talking about a gospel singer. When Michael sung it live, he was known to throw in Sonya Issacs’ name in there. Then he would go into the chorus singing “I’m not for sale.” People applauded because many felt she had sold out.

    The second verse of the song talks about how Michael Combs turned down a secular music contract. Kenny Hinson turned down a country music contract as well. He gave that testimony on “ON THE ROAD” live album. Ronnie told me that he turned down at least one other later on in the 80s.

    My point is if you sing gospel music, your lifestyle, biblical principles, and your convictions should back-up what you sing about. So many artist do not realize that the reason that some people follow a group is not just because of the songs they sing. They follow them because they trust that their lives back-up what they sing about.

    This is why the Inspirations, Primitive, and the McKameys have the following and audience that they have. Not only do you feel something in their music, but you feel like they live what they sing about.

    Please don’t think I am saying that these are the only artists with songs you can feel something in, or that these artists are the only ones who live what they sing about.

    “Be ye separate from the world.” Singing country or along the side with country artists is not being separate. I’m even disappointed in Gold City singing “Elvria” along side the Oak Ridge Boys.

    When are we going to do as Moses and say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When are we going to mean it in the sense that we’re not changing that rule even when certain circumstances come along. Don’t go running to the pastor requesting prayer when your kids join a country or rock group and are alcoholics and drug users because you said, “Hey, you can sing secular music as long as you go to church or sing some gospel songs along the way.”

  23. natesings wrote:

    Some of you are speaking as if singing Country music is a bad thing. The Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Travis, and even more recently Josh Turner and Carrie Underwood have reached more ears with their Country songs that have a Christian message in one week than any SG group could in one year. Plus they are singing to the people that really need to hear about Jesus and not to people that are already in church.

  24. dkd wrote:

    # 22 Oh my word! Do you actuallyl believe that SG singers children don’t get mixed up in “worldly activities”? Or that SG artist’s don’t stray from the straight and narrow? Pleeze some of you people need to take your heads out of the sand or any place else they may be stuck..as # 21 (Johnny) said (pharaphrasing) Only God knows our individual hearts and he is the judge and jury. I would venture to say that half of the SG singers out there today would jump fast at a country Deal if given a chance. I know a few personally!

  25. Gina wrote:

    I have not witnessed Michael Combs’ ministry, but if he did indeed do as #22 suggests, what does that say about HIS character? If he wants to make a general statement, that’s one thing, but calling a specific person’s name in front of a crowd in a negative tone is another story.

  26. thom wrote:

    to #22 -michael combs being offered a secular recording contract! that is the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard. i about spewed coffee all over my desk when i read that!!!

    #21 johnny nailed it -

  27. David wrote:

    #22: Did Michael Combs call out Sonya’s name before or after he yelled for more reverb? #42, http://averyfineline.com/2007/08/21/open-thread-3/

  28. GD wrote:

    I must say that I’m not a huge fan of the Issacs. In fact, I can remember seeing them in person only once and that was when they were just starting and were at NQC showcase hosted by Eddie Crook. I have, however, purchased their last two projects. I really enjoy their harmonies and appreciate their abilities even though I’m not a fan of bluegrass. I did notice that their songs seemed a little “watered” down as far as having a message. I don’t blame them for that. I feel that SG has missed its opportunity to be a legitimate genre where folks who want to serve God with their talents can actually make a good living. As a little boy, I dreamed of one day singing gospel music professionally. In college, I had two opportunities to travel with two of gospel music’s biggest names, but chose to stay in school so I’d have my education as something to “fall back on” if the music gig didn’t work. Well, I eventually traveled with a well known regional group and actually made as much for 3 weekend dates as many “full-time” folks made for the week. I saw first hand the struggles of those traveling full time. They were bascially singing because they had no choice because if they didn’t sing, they didn’t eat. And that was from some of the upper tier folks. I’m sure the Issacs would stay right where they are if the SG genre would support them. BUT if they can’t get that support, I don’t blame them for using their gifts in something other than SG. Who is say that God is not opening up a mission field for them and blessing the financially at the same time. He is a BIG God you know.

  29. dkd wrote:

    # 28 GD…Amen…couldn’t agree with you more.

  30. RNGfreckles wrote:

    #27 - Too funny!!!

    If it’s not such a big deal to cross over into mainstream country from SG or Gospel bluegrass, why don’t we have one big country genre? Everybody can sing what they want to, whether it’s about God, bars, or cheating. As long as it’s bluegrass and they’re making lots of money - who cares - right?
    Now that you have hopefully realized that I am only being sarcastic…
    Why do people think that making it big in country music is a better deal than Gospel music? My thoughts are this - aren’t my rewards in Heaven better than anything this earth can give? Just a thought.

  31. dkd wrote:

    #30..the biggest problem is that many people struggle financially in SG music. What starts out as dedication and good intent sometimes turns into desperation just trying to feed the family. I really believe that most would switch in a heartbeat given the chance, having been there and done that, can’t say that I blame them. IMO

  32. wackythinker wrote:

    I’m not sure what the big deal is about Christian artists singing “secular” songs. As long as it’s not cheatin’ & drinkin’, or sex & drugs, what does it matter? Maybe God has given some singers different callings. Does the banker who’s a Christian only handle money of other Christians? Does a car salesman who’s a Christian only sell cars to other Christians? Does the clerk at Wal-Mart who’s a Christian only wait on customers who are Christians? Of course, not. Be careful about judging an artist by what he/she sings. If it doesn’t contradict the Gospel, it may not be all bad.

  33. Trent wrote:

    A BIG reason many SG artists are in financial hardship is because of the purchase of a six-figure bus. The bus is an albatross hanging around their necks, financially. I applaud the groups who don’t feel that they have to fit in with the big-name group crowd and keep up a monthly payment on a bus.

  34. ST wrote:

    #24 If you know people singing gospel music that wants to jump at a country music deal - tell them to go jump because we don’t need half-hearted liberal hypocrites standing up ON THE PLATFORM putting on a religious front show.

    #23 I don’t have any confidence in Oak Ridge Boys, Josh Turner, Carry Underwood or any other who tries to straddle the fence. When you see true repentence and a true heart change, you might see these artist forsake the worldly music and sing only gospel.

    It is so amazing how many country songs have become so religious lately. Some even talk about drinking one night and going to church the next day or two. Does no one seem to see that it’s a black & white issue? Either your completely sold-out to the Lord or your living for the devil. There is no being in between. That is how our forefathers preached it because that is what the Bible says.

    #26 Call your local gospel station and request “Not For Sale” by Michael Combs. The second verse is his testimony of how he was offered a secular music contract. That’s his testimony anyway.

  35. CG wrote:

    To post #32, I say a big, AMEN!

    As I once heard a dear Pentecostal preacher say, “…anyone who doesn’t believe God likes Country music has never read the Song of Solomon.”

  36. QN wrote:

    Rebecca Isaacs Bowman is a very underrated vocalist/musician. A shame.
    They have lost much musicall consistency since Joe left. Seems like they do something stylisticly different on every release nowadays, which I think hasn’t helped them.
    Just my opionions.

  37. thom wrote:

    to #34 “ST” - no thanks, i’d rather listen to 2 cats screeching while scratching on a chalkboard.

  38. BL wrote:

    This is to those of you who think it’s impossible to live for Jesus and sing country music. What do you do for a living? Are you an electrician? A construction worker? A teacher? If you are anything other than a minister, missionary, or a Gospel singer then tell me this, why aren’t you sold out for the Lord? The answer is you very well may be sold out for the Lord. The former occupations I named aren’t necessarily “Christian” occupations. They’re jobs. They provide you a way to make money. The same goes for country music. Don’t you think it’s just as easy to be “called” to sing country music as it is anything else? Were you not directed by God to your current job? The point I’m trying to make (though it’s late and tomorrow when I reread this it will probably only make sense to me! haha) is that we can live for Jesus while doing anything.

    Now that being said, I do agree that I sometimes doubt those in country music’s standards. I agree with the fact that if you’re going to claim to be a Christian you can’t turn around and sing songs about drinking, gambling, and other less than Godly topics. It can be done, they just have to have the want to.

  39. jb wrote:

    The problem I have with being a christian and singing country music, is the places that country music CAN take you. Alot of country is sang in bars. I know the ole argument there…”I am witnessing in the bar by not drinking”. I just think you are trying to stradle the fence when you try to do both.

  40. TLW wrote:

    You know there is a very simple way to resolve your feelings about the Isaacs. Just don’t listen to them or buy their music or support their ministry. Yes I said ministry! Because it is a ministry! It just seems to me that all of you who are throwing stones at them must just be the few “perfect” people on this planet. I guess you all have never gone through hard times, had trials, heartache, or made any mistakes in your lives! The difference is your life isn’t on public display is it? Ye without sin cast the first stone. There is forgiveness in God’s Kingdom. What has or has not gone on in the personal lives of the Isaacs is just that personal. They are fine, talented, ANOINTED people sharing the hope of Jesus. Wether they are successful or not only they can say what success is to them. But as for me I will continue to pray for them everyday and listen to their music and see them as often as I can. If you don’t like them then don’t. It’s just that simple.

  41. TLW wrote:

    You know God is the creator of all music. As long as the music lyrics don’t say anything about cheating, drinking, drugs, or sex out side of marriage I think there is nothing wrong with that. We all have a life. Or at least should have a life. I’ve heard the Sonya doesn’t sing anything that compromises her beliefs. But once again this is her business and none of ours.
    The thing is that Christian Artists have long sang on Country music artitists projects. It’s just been brought more to the SG’s crowd attention by Bill Gaither at his concerts, mostly because the Isaacs are so often asked to guest on so many well known artists projects. I think it’s becasue they see that they Isaacs have something special that they want on their CD’s. And you know who is to say that the Isaacs aren’t sharing the Lord with those folks? You know Jesus himself went among the publicans and sinners because the “religious crowd” of the day wanted nothing to do with him. hmmmmmm? Well you know you don’t take a doctor to well people do you?

  42. LAD wrote:

    It simply amazes me how people can comment/bash people and things that they really know nothing about. The Isaacs are human beings as we all are, not Gods, not something to be placed upon a pedestal and scrutinized and torn apart. Yes because they are in the public eye, the parts of their lives that should be personal are sometimes made public but they are no different than you and I. They have feelings, they make mistakes, they go through all the same trials and heartaches that we do. Who are we to judge them? I think it’s time to get past what they might have done 10 years ago and live in the present. They are a loving, God fearing family that are sacrificing alot to travel most of the year to minister. They are reaching hundreds of people with a message that those people might never hear otherwise. Yes their sound has changed. They are shifting their focus to a younger crowd. A crowd that needs to hear that there is a loving God that cares about them and that will never leave them nor forsake them. A crowd that needs to hear about Hope and Peace in a world that sometimes seems to have neither. If it takes having a country sound to reach those people, then so be it. How are they ever going to share the message if they only sing to the Christians??
    And how in the world could you even think to compare them to a group like the Crabb Family? The Isaacs are blessed with talent that doesn’t come along every day. They aren’t singing to tracks or lip syncing their songs like most of the groups travelling today. What you see and hear is the real thing with the Isaacs.
    I think everyone should clean their own house before talking trash about someone else’s.
    If you’re concerned about them pray for them. I’m sure they’d appreciate that!

  43. TLW wrote:

    LAD, Well said!!!! I couldn’t agree with you more! I think it’s a real shame when people want to hold others to a standard that they themselves don’t even try to live by. I too am a supporter of the Isaacs and their ministry and think they are doing a wonderful work. I think prayer is a wonderful way to support them. I’m glad to see that someone else has something positive to say instead of “bashing” this lovely family. I just can’t believe some of the cruel things that have been written here. As Christians we are expected to do better than talk this way about one another.
    Once again LAD, thank-you for saying what needed to be said. God Bless you! God Bless the Isaacs!

  44. Wayne wrote:

    #13 Please put that stick you’re beating over Sonya’s head down. How about a little love and forgiveness for youthful mistakes. Did you ever make any? We all live and learn my friend. The Isaacs including Sonya are good christian folks who are touching lives each and every weekend somewhere. If the lord thought like you did 90% of us on this board would bust hell wide open. Thanks to god’s saving grace and forgiveness we won’t.

  45. tracy wrote:

    i agree with #42 and 43

  46. TLW wrote:

    God Bless you Wayne and Tracy for words of love and support for the Isaacs. They are the most lovely talented family. They LOVE the Lord. They are just so much fun and a joy to be around. God Bless and have a Merry Christmas.

  47. ADC wrote:

    Come to Macon Missouri on February the 1st 2008, 7pm, for a FREE concert by the Isaacs and you can hash this over in your mind while enjoying a audio and spiritual treat. It will be held at Macon First Baptist and everyone is welcome. 660-385-3714
    hopeformacon.com

  48. TLW wrote:

    #47 I love that you say it’s going to be an Audio and a Spritual Treat! You are 100% right!!!!!! Well said! Enjoy the concert and ministry.

    God Bless!

  49. MLatham wrote:

    Go Sonya, May God Bless you is what I say. What a bonus blessing to hear those beautiful anointed voices..

    I have only recently been turned on to this family. I love their singing and have been brought back to the singing of my past yrs..

    Joe has been mentioned. Who is he and where did he go..?

  50. KennyD wrote:

    Well let me ask you all this question…if a Christian can carry and unload a tune real good…should he or she only use that talent in Gospel music?

    If someone is a great writer..should he/she only write books about Christianity?

    If someone is a great orator…should he only speak God’s Word?

    Give Sonya a break…pleassee..well maybe they shouldn’t have flaunted her turning down a wordly deal at first..but hey…she’s to big for Gospel music only…

    Didn’t dawn on you all, that God might have other plans with Sonya? It didn’t ?

    KennyD

  51. LAD wrote:

    Amen Kenny D!!!

  52. Lindsay wrote:

    I think this is soo rude and degrating. The Isaacs are the best mixed southern gospel/ bluegrass group out there. You obviously need to get your ears checked. Sonya won female vocalist of the year, so haha. I win.
    Writing articles is not your thing. I think you should be a celebrity article(since all of the articles they write are lies)

  53. Trish wrote:

    I think you “critics” talking so ugly about the Isaacs need to get the plank out of your own eye before trying to get it out of the Isaacs. I hear a lot of judgemental and jealous attitudes in these comments. We are all human and WE ALL have trials and temptations that life brings us but it’s how we handle them that matters. Sonya Isaacs has one of the BEST voices I have ever heard in my life. I know she’s human but I believe she tries to live her life as a Christian while making some mistakes along the way. Don’t we all????????? Don’t be jealous of others as it is SIN just like anything else.

  54. Vernon wrote:

    I must say that this article is one of the most confusing pieces of junk I’ve ever read. He startys a sentence and by the time you get to the period you have no idea what he was tring to say.
    Who is he, or any of the rest of us, to judge the Issacs? They bless my heart in concerts and in recordings. I guess my heart hears better than my uneducated ears. HAHAHA! I once heard Mylon Lefevre and his group Broken Heart, and could not stand his style of music, BUT he gave his testimony and an alter call and the alter was FULL of young people getting their hearts right with God, so I realized that I had no right to judge his music. HE was touching lives. The same goes for the Issacs. If they can touch lives for Christ, then LEAVE THEM ALONE!! Just because they don’t rock your boat, thats no reason to knock them. I don’t know who said it but someone said “Christianity is the only army that shoots its wounded soldiers”. What a shame.

  55. RHJ wrote:

    OK. After reading all these things, here’s what I think. I have Sonya Isaacs country CD. I listen to it quite often. I have a DVD of her saying that even though she is singing country music, she WILL NOT sing anything against her beliefs or convictions. If some of you would listen to her country CD, you will know that there is not 1 bad thing on there. It’s still Sonya just singing new songs. There’s even a Gospel song on the end. Give it a chance and listen to it. The Isaacs are a very blessed and talented group.

  56. Tim Peters wrote:

    It’s hard to imagine people who could write a song like, “Ive come to take you home”, would ever stoop to divorce and remarriage. Jesus’ explanation for Mose’s bill probably says it best though. Their hearts were hard to begin with. I believe the Issacs did run well….. Somehow I think they’ve forgotten who/what they’re promoting.

  57. Morris Wilburn wrote:

    I know of many secular songs that in my opinion do not contradict the Bible. Some that come to mind are Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkle, Yesterday by the Beatles, Everybody Hurts Sometime by REM, Unchained Melody (I have forgotten by who), Leaving on a Jet Plane by Peter, Paul and Mary, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” by Willie Nelson. I would “go out on a limb” and say that “The First Time” by Roberta Flack is erotic, but that does not mean it is immoral.

    But if a SG singer were to perform these songs, it may raise the question in some people’s minds whether SG is “just another music genre”, or conveys truths about the relationship between humans and the One True God.

  58. P.M. wrote:

    Have any of you checked out her “my space” page?
    She gives a long list of singers she likes and Michael Jackson is one of them. She also gives her sign on that page.

    I have read all your comments and I just think the young people of today live as close to the world as they can and some of us of the older generation can’t understand their reasoning.

    I myself have two sons in their 30’s and one of them is a youth minister. His wife dresses like the world and thinks she has to show her body to all the men in the world. I don’t understand it and don’t understand why my son allows his wife to display her body to the world in such revealing ways, but I can only pray for them that God will bring conviction and let her see herself as He see’s her, and let my son see that this dress (or I should say undress) is not appropriate for teen boys in his youth group to view on a weekly basis. What would be the difference if they viewed women on the internet that dressed this way.

    I said this to remind you that Sonja is a young person and she must be behaving just like others her age that think parents and grandparents ideas of behaviour, dress, speech and the music we think is not appropriate is just old fashioned and they are determined to be different.

    Lets just pray for her as anything we say or anything we post will not change the things about her that we don’t approve of, but if we pray Jesus can change her.

  59. Nancy wrote:

    Ditto to #38. Who says a person has to do just one thing in life to be a Christian? How many people do the same job all of their life and still claim to be a Christian? I love The Isaacs and appreciate change. As far as I am concerned they just keep getting better. Why does Sonya need to change? She is great the way she is. People need to get off their pedestal they have themselves on and let God do the judging.

  60. fellow muscian wrote:

    I stumbled upon this tonight….you all have way too much time and I recieved a great laugh.

  61. mary b wrote:

    We were entertained by the Issacs last evening and felt like the show and the family were TopNotch!
    My Question is: Where did Joe get to from the scene? Is he the father of the children? Why would he ever leave such a beautiful family?

  62. NBR wrote:

    First, I actually took the time to read this stuff, and won’t get the time back… Second, this turned out to be a way for folks who don’t know to pontificate about the personal life of some singers (admittedly awesome singers) doing what they do…singing.
    Third, there’s a whole bunch of really committed Christians in the music business…Nashville, LA, New York, Branson…how they sing Gospel music has nothing to do with their religion…that part is between them and God. Anyone who says different doesn’t know the Bible.
    Last, if you don’t like their music, turn it off. Same argument as objectionable TV and cable…turn it off.

    I love their music, envy them their gift, and listen with great joy to their praise.

    Y’all git a life!!

  63. Beth McClung wrote:

    I have no interest in commenting on personal lives, but do want to agree with a person who wrote that Becky Isaacs Bowman is greatly under-rated and under-utilized in my opinion. When I became an Isaacs fan, it was because of her voice that I heard on the radio. I guess that was during the time Sonya was not with the group. I don’t dislike Sonya’s voice most of the time, but instead of shrill, I prefer full, rich voice quality that has a unique sound….like Becky’s. I went to Gaitherfest in 2009 and so wanted to hear Becky sing lead on some songs, but she didn’t. Same happened when I attended a Gaither reunion concern in Lubbock, Tx. some months ago, no centerpiece for Becky. I think the group would do better if she was ALWAYS the lead.

  64. TLP wrote:

    i do agree some with beth. becky does have a beautiful voice.and i also wish she would lead more.

  65. alice flick wrote:

    I like all the singers rhonda vincent allison krauss sonya issac but my favorite is allison and as far as sonya getting married again I hope it turns out well just because someone gets divorced doesn’t make them unloved by God divorce is not something God condons but it isn’t our place to pass judgement I have loved the Issacs for 20 years and was sad when I noticed Sonya wasn’t wearing her ring it seens to have made her and Becky closer and as for bowman he left the group to preach full time is what I heard more power to you if its true lets love each other and pray for each other and as for the woman or man that won’t listen to the Issacs any more OOOH what you will miss!

  66. stan h wrote:

    Listen people a few things I will relay here. Elvis presley was a Christian and sang gospel,blues,and Rick and roll and the jordanaires sang with him for many yrs. And then J.D. summer and the stamps sang with Elvis from about 71-77 and can be seen on stage in alpha from Hawaii and sang sweet sweet spirit . And other gospel songs with Elvis as 73 million people veiwed it all over the world . As young girls held up signs stating Elvis is the king Elvis made them remove it and stated no Jesus is the King. As 73million veiwed Elvis make that statement of truth. Now listen people I have sang in gospel quartets for 20 yrs and with my family 15 yrs. Before that. I have sang all types of gospel from bluegrass to southern gospel and even a few country flavored Christmas songs . I have always had to work a regular job and sing on the weekends . But, if I had the chance I would do a little of it too for more money if it wasn’t sex,drugs etc.. J.D.Summer was the founder of the national quartet convention and he sang with Elvis and was featured on several songs such as “Way Down”. No I don’t totally agree with everything she has done but,I ain’t perfect either and neither are you let God be the judge of a man or woman’s heart.

  67. stan h wrote:

    Joe and Lilly divorced in 1998 and sings mostly localized and yes he is the kids dad. Ask Lilly or Joe they can tell you . I heard once but, don’t know if its rumor and don’t care to repeat it. Lilly now refers to Joe as the children’s father. I will say divorce is not pretty and often times the pressures of the road take their toll.

  68. Caleb wrote:

    To whom it may concern,
    I would like to purchase a song called “Stand Still And Let God Move” by the Isaacs. I have looked for this piece of music but I can not find it. I would like to purchase this music. I currently have a group in which I am currently looking for this music. I am their pianist.
    I would appreciate a response regarding this issue.
    Respectfully,
    Caleb

  69. Bryce wrote:

    Caleb,

    This search took all of twenty seconds.

  70. JS wrote:

    I am a huge Isaac’s fan and I feel like their music today is just as good as it was 20 years ago….but it is different. I actually really appreciate that about the group–they continue to explore new areas and try new things and because they are so talented they still sound phenomenal. As a band it is easy to keep doing the same things over and over, but it takes real work to continue to grow and accomplish new things. Let’s face it, if they still sounded the same as 20 years ago and were doing the same style of songs all the time, I think that I would be bored and would have no incentive to see what they are doing next.

    When I first heard about Sonya putting out the country cd, I was also a little upset. Eventually I purchased the cd….and because I love her voice and musical ability I loved the cd. Getting to hear more music by one of your favorite artists is always a good thing. I love that Becky’s beautiful voice is totally unique, I think that Ben has an amazing vocal range, and I think that Sonia has one of the best voices of women singers today. Even after all these years, I happily still call them my favorite band!

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