The Hillbilly Thomists unfolds like a genius soundtrack to a Coen Brothers’ movie that never was. (And indeed, Coen fans will probably recognize the first track, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” from True Grit, and the second, “Angel Band,” from O Brother Where Art Thou?) It’s anything but clumsy or gimmicky; in fact, it’s exquisite.
In the hands of experts in both preaching and liturgical singing, these well-worn folk standards reclaim the fervor and sincerity with which they were first written, sung and faithfully passed on by Christians past.
“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,” said Brother Peter Gaustsch, who plays mandolin, piano, and guitar.
What a tribute to the power of bluegrass!
But after nearly four years of performing, they’ve now produced their first album, and it is a veritable feast of Bluegrass banjo bliss! … Many of the songs chosen for the album emphasize the theme of pilgrimage, and the vocal harmonies of songs like “Angel Band” remind us of our heavenly destination.
This is one of the most wonderful surprises: a new release of bluegrass gospel music by a band of young Dominican brothers.
They beckon you to stop what you are doing and listen. The arrangements jar the sedated soul to life, as if from a hundred-year slumber, and call the individual to partake in the banquet of our 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 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.