published Friday, March 4th, 2011

Holy Ghost Tent Revival defies classification

Some bands are content with being easily classifiable in a stylistic niche. Not so, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, a North Carolina-based septet that has reveled in throwing wicked musical curveballs since its founding in 2007.

At first glance, the instrumental lineup of guitars, banjos, bass, drums and keys doesn’t seem terribly out of line with mainline bluegrass or Americana acts. But then, unexpected instruments such as euphonium, trombone or accordion make an appearance.

With their multipart harmonies, rocking energy and hints of Dixieland jazz and ragtime, the members of Holy Ghost Tent Revival are anything but easy to peg down. That’s just the way they like it, said vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Matt Martin.

“It’s nice that if friends are describing us to other friends, they have to describe the music instead of saying, ‘This is a great Americana act,’” he said. “It’s much better to have someone else’s opinion on it take a few sentences, rather than just a word or two.”

Wednesday, Holy Ghost Tent Revival will bring its genre-spanning sound to Rhythm & Brews alongside fellow Tar Heels Hoots & Hellmouth.

Late last summer, the band was given a taste of its own unexpected medicine when pianist/accordionist Mike O’Malley announced his decision to leave after two years in the lineup.

His replacement, Kevin Williams, joined the band in August. Martin said the band has since become restabilized and re-energized, even as some of its set-list standards have evolved as a result of the new blood.

“We taught [Kevin] all the songs that we’d written from years ago, including some that were going to go on the [new] album, and he kind of, by mistake, rewrote them all,” Martin said. “He’s a pretty incredible musician, and one we’re very honored to have on our crew. He inherently changed a lot of our tunes.”

Q&A: Vocalist, guitarist and banjo player Matt Martin.


What: Holy Ghost Tent Revival with Hoots & Hellmouth.

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

Admission: $7.

Phone: 267-4644.

Venue website:

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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