The family band is experiencing a renewal in bluegrass music, with talented kids and their supportive parents popping up everywhere these days. While family bands are a great vehicle to launch careers of young instrumental prodigies, it’s also nice to see a group where the entire family works together to form a cohesive band. Florida’s Thomas Family Band – dad Micheal, mom Amy, sons Ethan and Joel, and daughter Sarah Beth – does just that. With their second album, The Condition of Your Heart, this bluegrass Gospel group offers listeners a well-rounded sound and an enjoyable selection of songs.
Amy and Micheal both have backgrounds singing in church and with southern Gospel groups, and have wanted to pursue a musical ministry for a number of years. With the help of their children, they are able to do just that. Both Amy and Micheal take turns singing lead, along with the help of seven-year-old Sarah Beth (who has a strong control of her voice to be so young), while also respectively playing bass and guitar. Ethan (15) takes care of fiddle, mandolin, and some of the lead guitar duties, and thirteen-year-old Joel picks the banjo. The two boys – while still a little young – are doing their best to crush it. They’ll likely be an instrumental force to be reckoned with in the not too distant future. The entire family is talented, and they come together to create a smooth mix of contemporary and traditional bluegrass Gospel music.
Alongside a number of familiar hymns and southern Gospel numbers are three originals written by Amy. Draw Me Near finds the singer asking the Lord to guide her throughout trials that may arise in her life. It’s set to a bouncy southern Gospel-influenced groove, with guest Clint Wilson on lead guitar. The title track is a well-written retelling of the Biblical parable of the sower, urging listeners to open their hearts to the Lord. Meditate on God’s Word is a grassy, foot-tapping number that stresses the importance of following the teachings of the Bible. Michael takes lead vocals on this song, showing off a strong, country-tinged voice. Amy, who sings lead on the other two originals, is also a solid vocalist. She has a clear, honest voice that suits this style of music well.
Other highlights here include Heaven’s Bright Shore, which is modeled after the early ’90s Alison Krauss version, and the Paul Overstreet composition I Will Carry My Cross For You, which is perhaps the album’s strongest song. Fans of a more contemporary sound will enjoy the Jon Weisberger/Lisa Shaffer co-write That’s What His Love Can Do, a celebration of Jesus’ role in our lives that is performed as a duet between Amy and Micheal. Sarah Beth takes the lead on several songs, but Becky’s Buller’s The Master’s Garden (which can also be found on Buller’s recent solo album), sung earnestly with layered harmonies from her parents on the chorus, is her best performance.
The Thomas Family Band has had a pretty heavy touring schedule over the past few years, although it’s mostly been in their home territory of Florida and Georgia. Hopefully, this new album will help spread their sound – and their positive, Bible-based message – to new audiences across the rest of the United States and beyond.
For more information on the Thomas Family Band, or to purchase their new album, visit their website at www.thethomasfamilyband.com.