Unbeknownst to me prior to this review, Burlap to Cashmere is not a new band, even though their newest album is also just their sophomore album. The five-piece from New York recorded and released their first record, “Anybody Out There?” in 1998. It won two Dove Awards and produced two hit singles on CCM radio.
But, in 2005, guitarist John Philippidis, was involved in a minor car accident, which resulted in a road-rage type altercation. Philippidis was nearly beaten to death by the individuals in the other car; he was in a coma for a month.
Back from a long recovery, Philippidis and his band Burlap to Cashmere has released an outstanding follow-up to their successful debut album. While they were absent for many years, I have a feeling they won’t go unnoticed any longer.
“Burlap to Cashmere” is a diverse album full of beautiful acoustic tracks influenced by Greek music. The ethnic blend of folk songs is perfected through the maturity these veterans bring to the table.
Starting off the record is “Don’t Forget to Write,” one of the many tracks which
taste strongly of Simon & Garfunkel, an influence of lead songwriter Steven Delopoulos. His and his cousin John Philippidis’ vocals harmonize perfectly. The next tune is the edgiest on the album, “Build a Wall.’ Delopoulos’ voice transforms into something gritty and fierce as he rattles off the catchy chorus.
“Tonight” is a very adult-contemporary like track which features some nice Spanish guitar. “Love Reclaims the Atmosphere” was the first song Philippidis wrote while recovering from his accident and the emotion can be felt. It’s a beautiful, soft song that is understated, yet powerful. “Closer to the Edge” is a solemn, acoustic track which holds its own.
“Orchestrated Love Song” is the most Greek influenced song on the album. As Delopoulos sings, “I want to live on a boat and sail away with my children,” one can clearly envision the scene, sailing on the Mediterranean Sea. In contrast, “Life in a Van” is perhaps the most straight-up folk number amongst the group, where traces of Bob Dylan can be heard. “Santorini” pays homage to the band’s heritage, singing of an island off the coast of Greece. It’s a fun and happy tune. On the other side is “Hey Man,” which is more contemplative and packs a bit of a country sound.
Closing out the record is “Seasons,” which is another extremely catchy tune and “The Other Country,” which sounds different from every other track on the album. The latter was written for the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” but includes a dual-meaning, with the “other country” referencing Heaven. Delopoulos sums up the band’s journey well in the final lines:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
Even though I sink through the ocean.
You will rescue me.
I am standing in the fire,
But I can hear the choir singing.
I was a blind man stumbling, but now I see.”
I hope that this group can make a strong come-back because with a release like this, they deserve it.