Thomas Joseph White is a co-founding member of the Hillbilly Thomists, who published their first album in 2017. Originally a native of southeast Georgia, White began playing bluegrass music as hobby, and eventually joined forces with other members of the Hillbilly Thomists in Washington DC.
The band is composed of friars of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), a Roman Catholic religious order. After playing music together for several years, they released their eponymous debut album in 2017, which reached #3 on the Billboard bluegrass chart and mostly consisted in bluegrass standards and Americana favorites. Since then, they have released series of albums with their own composition and undertaken several tours. Combining styles that stem from old-time bluegrass music as well as folk and country, the band is developing its own unique form of Southern gothic folk music with themes that touch upon the sacred and the profane, the humorous and the solemn. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican, and inspirations from his thought (i.e., Thomism) sometimes make their way into the lyrics.
The title of the band is inspired by the American literary author Flannery O’Connor, who once described herself as a “hillbilly Thomist.” Imagery from her stories can also be found in the songs.
Fr. Thomas Joseph White plays the banjo principally as well as the steel guitar and dulcimer. He plays both a Deering Eagle II and a Sierra five-string banjo. He is inspired by especially by the work of Tony Trischka and Jens Kruger. Johnny Cash is also important.
When he is not playing the banjo, Fr. Thomas Joseph White is the rector (president) of a pontifical university in Rome where he is a professor of Catholic theology and writes books and articles.