The Hillbilly Thomists, the beloved bluegrass band of the Order of Preachers, are back in with their third studio album, Holy Ghost Power. The work is a continuation of their bluegrass acoustic style that clearly shows a refinement of their skills as musicians and songwriters. The album will be released on July 7, but today we’re getting a sneak peek at the new record with the released of the single, “Good Tree.”
In a press release, The Hillbilly Thomists perfectly describe Holy Ghost Power as keeping “one foot rooted in the Blueridge foothills of Bluegrass and Americana while stepping across the Mississippi into the land of New Orleans Delta Blues and Old Western Country.” Indeed the album offers a range of acoustic styles that showcase the breadth of genres traditional to the United States.
Holy Ghost Power
There’s a whole lot of music on Holy Ghost Power, with 13 tracks that clock in at just under an hour. The first thing that struck us as we turned on the titular track was that it has a deliberate rawness to it, born from the confidence of a group that has been performing together for years. Everything about Holy Ghost Power is polished and perfected, from their solos and vocals to their lyrical content.
The way they place their texts, steeped in Catholic concepts and perspectives, against the secular blues style makes the album all the more exciting. For example, “Way Down In New Orleans” walks the listener through the tale of a man who’s run into trouble in cities across the country only to find his faith in New Orleans. The tune opens up naming off famed historical moments of the 20th century, reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and sung in a tone that brings to mind Jerry Lee Lewis.
Several tracks on the album lean more heavily on the piano than their past releases, which creates an altogether new musical texture for the band. At times the piano adds a more “boogie-woogie” vibe to a track, or in the case of “Veronica,” it brings a more subdued Jackson Brown style to the piece. One of the Dominicans even puts on a thrilling harmonica solo in “New City.” Overall, it’s impressive to see what a wide variety of instruments these talented musicians have at their disposal.
This variety is also seen in their vocals, as several members of the band take a turn at the microphone. Each vocalist has his own distinct sound, particularly noticeable on “Floodwaters,” which features a classic country baritone. Where the band really shines, however, is in their impeccable vocal harmonies, the pride of any bluegrass band.
We’ll publish an in-depth analysis of each song after the album is officially released, on July 7, but for now let’s take a look at the first single from Holy Ghost Power, “Good Tree.” The song features an intro and solo played on a fully wooden banjo, which makes the instrument sound a little more like a mandolin. The video, recorded before beautiful mountain scenery, shows that the band is just as good live as they are in the studio.
This song sources its lyrics from Luke 6:44, when Jesus teaches that a tree is known by its fruit. The Hillbilly Thomists run with this metaphor, explaining the virtues of bearing good fruit with an easy to sing melody. The song is accented by fantastic three-part harmonies that are bound to get audiences singing along.
The Old Highway Tour
The Hillbilly Thomists are supporting their new release with a tour through the Eastern United States. Called the Old Highway Tour, the band is set to play Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Cleveland. Although it’s not listed on their poster, The Hillbilly Thomists just added another stop in New York City, on July 23.
There’s something about the poster that screams “The Blues Brothers,” which is especially fitting because Holy Ghost Power brings the band deeper into the blues than ever before. Not to mention that, like The Blues Brothers, The Hillbilly Thomists are on a mission from God.
The tour is sure to be unique as they’re not just promoting their album, but their Catholic faith. The Hillbilly Thomists are Dominican friars first and foremost, and they’ll use the music as a vehicle to drive the Catholic message down the Old Highway. The band notes that they’re setting out with “a tank full of Americana favorites, Bluegrass standards, and original songs.” They wrote of their act:
“A band like none other, The Hillbilly Thomists remain friars preachers even when on the stage, a dynamic that promises to give each show a spiritual itinerary of its own, passing through this world below unto the bright land of that new city lit by the Lamb.”
The Hillbilly Thomists
The Hillbilly Thomists erupted onto the music scene in 2017, with their self-titled debut album reaching #3 on Billboard’s Bluegrass chart. The world pandemic slowed them down for a few years, but they never stopped working on their craft, releasing their second album Living for the Otherside, in 2021. Now, a year later, they’ve put out another large collection of songs on Holy Ghost Power.
In a press release, the Hillbilly Thomists wrote of their new album:
“Flowing from the Dominican friars’ life of contemplation, study, and preaching, the 13 tracks of Holy Ghost Power sing of redeeming love and old-time religion, Diet Coke and Original Sin, pilgrimage and the sweet prospect of the life that awaits beyond the River Jordan’s stormy banks. They’re songs for people who are made of a little bit of angel and a little bit of dust.”
If you want another sneak peek at Holy Ghost Power, check out their Quarantine Sessions, where they played “Sing Redeeming Love,” the album’s final track, from isolation. Even playing from a distance (members were scattered across Washington, D.C., NYC, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, and even Rome) the band has no trouble putting on an excellent show.
Be sure to check your favorite music platform for Holy Ghost Power on July 7.