Videos by American Songwriter
Burlap to Cashmere
Burlap to Cashmere
[Rating: 4 stars]
Over a decade ago Burlap to Cashmere had an industry buzz going, winning a Dove award for its Anybody Out There? major label debut, where front man and principal songwriter Steven Delopoulos made it clear that he believed Jesus was The Man. The band (which included Delopoulos’ guitarist cousin John Philippidis and drummer Theodore Pagano) held the promise of an act that was going to take music into the 21st century, with an album that was equal parts Graceland and Fields Of Gold and a songwriter who was being compared to everybody from Bob Dylan to Cat Stevens to, well, just about anyone who had ever written great stuff on an acoustic guitar.
Then the band broke up. But now Burlap to Cashmere is back, featuring the three aforementioned core members. Hopefully the people who thought Delopoulos’ diverse musical influences and sometimes cryptic lyrics were the biggest thing since U2 haven’t forgotten about this band. But if they have, that’s okay. Because, unless the music business is really as unfair as those rejected by it complain it is, those people are about to have their memories jogged.
On Burlap to Cashmere’s new self-titled CD, Delopoulos doesn’t talk about Jesus, but is still a wonderful poet. Unlike the band’s first album, this one is more stripped down and acoustic, showing how good Delopoulos’ songs are on their own. Lines like “Oh the dizziness of traffic as her garden starts to wither/She opens up her violin so the darkness can forgive her” from “Love Reclaims the Atmosphere” only need simple guitar accompaniment and a harmony vocal ala Simon and Garfunkel to sound great; when Delopoulos sings “I want to live on a boat/And sail away with my children/Where the ocean hits the sky,” on “Orchestrated Love Song,” to a frantic flamenco guitar and creative percussion, nothing else is necessary. We all want to be on the boat with him.
Like Dylan, Delopoulos will have his detractors saying, “I don’t understand the words, what do they mean?” It’s indeed sometimes hard to figure out what Delopoulos is talking about, if he even completely knows himself as opposed to just finding words that rhyme. But no matter. The words he finds are the right words again and again, and he matches them with multicultural melodies and unexpected changes that go way beyond the predictable. The production by veteran Mitchell Froom (Los Lobos, Sheryl Crow) is on the money, as Froom is an artist’s producer who knows how to get out of the way and let his acts be the best they can be.
Brian Wilson, Chris Whitley, Ray LaMontagne – they’re all likely to be mentioned by other pundits in describing the work of this one guy who is just being himself, a guy who should someday be listed as an influence of others. If this band stays together, and Delopoulos is allowed to grow and not become a victim of the corporate machine, he could go down as music’s first truly great writer of this century. It’s a shame that he’s labored in obscurity into his 30s, but there’s still time. Burlap To Cashmere is one of the best records of 2011.