Michael Ray’s ‘Holy Water’ Ain’t Your Typical Church Song [Listen]
The title of Michael Ray's latest single sounds like a typical church song. However, "Holy Water" is not the story of redemption or saving grace — it's the opposite.
The song centers around a preacher who's caught up in a scandalous side hustle selling moonshine. When he rolls up to the church in a new Lincoln, some people start getting suspicious. At last, he is confronted by some members of his congregation. Rather than turn himself in, he recruits them to join his business.
Now there are two more Lincolns in the church parking lot.
"Holy Water" was expertly written by Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hunter Phelps and ACM Songwriter to the Year Michael Hardy. The lyrics draw you in and carry you through the story. The melody is in the same category as Blake Shelton's "Ole Red" and could easily be considered a Southern classic like "Man of Constant Sorrow," which has been covered by numerous artists.
"Holy Water" feels like the Florida pines mentioned in the song — gritty and dense, with many secrets to find.
Although he didn't have a hand in writing it, Ray says the song is eerily similar to his family's history. Growing up in central Florida, he spent plenty of time with his grandparents. One day while enjoying a shot with them, his grandmother nonchalantly said to his grandfather, "This tastes like the moonshine we used to run." She then told Ray the story of how the two of them used to run moonshine through Florida and the East Coast in their earlier days.
"As soon as I heard it, I was like, 'Oh, this is, first off, exactly what I've been looking for, what I've been trying to nail here," but also, like, it's that story-song," Ray tells the Boot. "It put my mind at Cassia Baptist Church and put my mind at my great-grandma's little yellow house ... You don't forget your grandmother telling you that they ran moonshine."
Ray plays off of the similarities between the song and his family history in the music video for "Holy Water," which was filmed at the same tiny white church that the country singer grew up attending.