Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Tuesday 31 January |
Saint of the Day: St. John Bosco
Aleteia logo
Art & Culture
separateurCreated with Sketch.

The roots of roots music: The Hillbilly Thomists before they were a band

J-P Mauro - published on 08/28/22

Fans of the Hillbilly Thomists can spot several members of the current band, as well as Aleteia's own English edition editor, Fr. Patrick Mary Briscoe, OP.

You can get Aleteia inspiration and news in your inbox. Our specially curated newsletter is sent each morning. The best part? It's free.

Sign up here

The Hillbilly Thomists recently released their third studio album,Holy Ghost Power, which peaked at #5 on Billboard’s bluegrass charts. While the new record is phenomenal, today we’re looking back to the time when the Hillbilly Thomists were just a rag-tag group of musicians from the Order of Preachers whose only stage was in a quiet room of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

In the beginning of the above recording, taken in 2014, one of the friars explains that the impromptu music session was held to welcome a pair of Dominican friars who were visiting from Ireland. To make their guests feel at home, the white-clad players gathered in a circle to sing Irish tunes. 

The song featured in the recording is “Will Ye Go, Lassie,” an Scottish/Irish folk song that is also known as “Wild Mountain Thyme” or sometimes “Purple Heather.” The tune was originally written by Scottish composer Robert Archibald Smith, with lyrics from the Scottish poet Robert Tannahill. The popular version performed in the video, however, was an adaptation of Smith’s tune by Irish musician Francis McPeake. 

The Dominicans gave the old Celtic song a great treatment, even going so far as to add some harmonies to the chorus. They start a little slow, but by the first chorus they’ve hit their stride and from there they sound as good as any Dublin band. 

The video is particularly fun to watch because fans of the Hillbilly Thomists can spot their members, with the three instrumentalists as the most obvious. While they may not have been quite as polished in 2014 as they are in 2022, the Hillbilly Thomists show they already had the musical skills needed to excel in their craft. As they say at The Catholic University of America’s Rome School of music, just across the street from the Dominican House of Studies: “Skills for life!”

Aleteia readers may also be able to recognize our own Father Patrick Mary Briscoe, OP, recently named editor of Our Sunday Visitor, singing two seats to the right of the man dressed in black. Fr. Patrick looks like he especially enjoyed the Irish folk song, as he’s sporting a huge grin by the end. 

Tags:
Dominicans
Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

jour1_V2.gif
Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries


Top 10
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here. It's Free!