The Hillbilly Thomists
December 15, 2017
After four albums of sacred choral music, the Dominican brothers have tuned their banjos and turned their attention to Americana folk and bluegrass. Their hope: to spread the joy of the gospel through the joy of music. As Br. Peter Gautsch, O.P. puts it in an interview, “I do think music can enhance evangelization if done right. We’re bodily beings, so beautiful images and sounds can be good for us, can help lift our minds to God.”
“After nearly four years of performing, [The Hillbilly Thomists have] now produced their first album, and it is a veritable feast of Bluegrass banjo bliss!”, writes C. C. Pecknold for First Things. “The twelve-song album includes nineteenth- and twentieth-century bluegrass classics, such as Jefferson Hascal’s ‘Angel Band’ (prominently featured in the Cohen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?), as well as original bluegrass arrangements of hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘What Wondrous Love Is This.'”
Matthew Becklo, writing for Word on Fire, observes that “at the center of this tapestry of traditional American music is ‘I’m a Dog,’ an original composition by Br. Justin that fits right in. It’s an easygoing, earnest song about loving and serving God, and revolves around the Dominican image of the ‘Hound of the Lord‘”
What is a hillbilly Thomist? In 1955, the southern author Flannery O’Connor said of herself, “Everybody who has read Wise Blood thinks I’m a hillbilly nihilist, whereas … I’m a hillbilly Thomist.” She said that her fiction was concerned with the ways grace is at work among people who do not have access to the sacraments. The Thomist (one who follows the thought of the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas) believes that the invisible grace of God can be at work in visible things, just as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in the person of Christ.
The Hillbilly Thomists has broken the top 10 Bluegrass albums of Billboard, the top 20 of all albums on Amazon, and it has received international attention. Please considering purchasing a copy today (CD; MP3; iTunes; Google Play) and helping to spread the word. Proceeds support the Dominican brothers studying in Washington, D.C., and the album would make an excellent Christmas gift for family and friends.