Style: Folk-pop with world music; compare to Paul Simon, Mumford and Sons, Gipsy Kings

Top tracks: "Love Reclaims the Atmosphere," "Build a Wall," "Closer to the Edge"

Burlap to Cashmere burst onto the scene in the late nineties with gusto, gobs of promise, and a sound that was fresh not only in CCM, but the mainstream too. Singer/guitarist Steven Delopoulos and his cousin, lead guitarist/vocalist Johnny Philippidis, drew on their Greek heritage to blend Mediterranean touchstones with harmony-rich American folk and pop.

The New York band gained a devoted following with its rip-roaring live shows, and when Anybody Out There? released in 1998, Burlap seemed poised to become a household name. Well, the touring continued, but no new album came. Years went by. Members went their separate ways. Delopoulos recorded a couple of solo albums and played some acoustic shows with Philippidis, but over time, it seemed that Burlap was a one-and-done memory.

Now, almost 13 years since its debut album, Burlap is back, including original drummer Theodore Pagano. And guess what? This self-titled album is even better than the first.

Delopoulos quoted John 3:16 verbatim on Anybody Out There?, and he's again given Christian radio plenty of fodder, though this time the Scripture references sound less clunky. He name-drops Nehemiah on the foot-stompin' "Build a Wall," quotes Psalm 23 on "Other Country," and uses "Selah" as an interjection on "Tonight."

While the '98 album was stylistically fresh, it suffered from the heavy-handed production typical of the day—including cheesy synthesizer and arena-rock drums. The new album's natural production allows acoustic guitars to sound like acoustic guitars—an important detail since the band's world-music influences remain intact (a good thing). "Orchestrated Love Song" suffers from some Precious Moments poetry, but the flamenco guitars and uncommon time signatures are captivating, and the melodies in "Santorini," an ode to Greece, sound like they were snatched right off the country's shores.

In the American folk category, Burlap's new sound takes more cues from Simon and Garfunkel than Toad the Wet Sprocket (also a good thing). "Don't Forget to Write" and "Love Reclaims the Atmosphere" could almost be outtakes from Sounds of Silence.

Some bands never reclaim the bracing vitality of youth captured in their first recordings. Too often "mature" becomes synonymous with "stale." But Burlap to Cashmere has managed to gracefully age without losing any of its vigor. It was worth the wait.

Burlap to Cashmere
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Average Rating
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Release Date
July 19, 2011
Jive/Essential Records
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