Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2017 / 12:09 pm
Folk music is known for its foot-tapping, hand-clapping, barn-raising style – but now, a group of Dominican brothers is giving the genre a theological twist.
Meet the Hillbilly Thomists, a group of Dominican brothers who have a new album coming out on Dec. 12, which they describe as an authentic human and religious experience.
“Music can be sacred, but it can also be simply human – which is also sacred, just in a less explicit way with lyrics and themes,” Brother Timothy Danaher, one of the vocalists, told CNA in an interview with four of the band members.
“The New Evangelization needs all kinds of music, both the sacred and the human, to get the attention of people going about their daily lives.”
The band consists of 10 members from the Dominican House of Study and St. Dominic’s Priory in Washington D.C. It began as a lighthearted project with a focus on traditional Celtic music.
“The band itself was started by a couple of friars in our province,” said Brother Jonah Teller, who sings and plays guitar in the band. It grew out of a group of brothers who would get together to play Irish tunes, he said.
At first, the project was a fun excuse for the brothers to get together weekly and enjoy music. But as it grew from Irish tunes to more folk and bluegrass, the band began to perform publicly, receiving gigs for Catholics venues outside of the house.
The name “Hillbilly Thomists” comes from a line delivered by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. After her novel Wise Blood was released, she said people had identified her as a “hillbilly nihilist,” to which she responded that she was more like a “hillbilly Thomist.”