Distant Oaks


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AllMusic Review by Murrday Fisher

Byways is an engaging sampler of Distant Oaks' work, its selections taken from their previous releases Empty Your Heart of Its Mortal Dream and Against the Tide. So, while established Distant Oaks fans will already have these songs from the earlier albums, the sampler serves as a useful introduction for new listeners. Instrumentally, Distant Oaks are traditional performers of excellence. Few can match the quality on "Atholl Highlanders." It's truly outstanding, and the pipes give it a distinctive and out of the ordinary sound. Then, on "Cottage in the Grove/Paddy Taylor's," the arrangement is bright with lilting whistles, while "Ran Na Maighdinn-Mhara" features marvelously ethereal strings. Since Deborah White's sons Jared and Shayne are this skillful already (as teenagers at the time of these recordings), think what future years and even greater maturity can bring. Vocally, though, Deborah White does fall into the same modern Celtic pattern of the female vocalist singing lyrics intended for a male lead on "When a Man's in Love." This is surprising, considering their very traditional orientation, otherwise. Yet while Jared has become expert in a diverse variety of early wind instruments, from recorder to whistles to several types of Scottish pipes, and Shayne is an equally noteworthy harper and stepdancer, as of this release, they're leaving the vocals to their mother. Perhaps one of them will vocalize on future albums? Deborah sings in English, on "Willie Macintosh" and also in Gaelic on "Si Do Mhamo I" and others. So, while there may be occasional grumbling from diehards about a female vocalist covering male lyrics, by and large, traditionalists will be joyfully playing this sampler again and again, and waiting eagerly for Distant Oaks' next album, too.