If you’ve been following this series, you’ve probably figured out that in the mid 90’s our local Christian book store was my record store. It was where I went to browse music, check out the listening stations and discover new bands. During one of my trips to the store, I stopped at a listening station playing a new album by a band called Burlap to Cashmere entitled Anybody Out There?. The name was innocuous enough and the album art was just a black and white picture of New York. I didn’t really know what to expect when I donned the well-worn headphones.
I was immediately struck by how talented this band was. Their style had a world-music flair to it with wickedly fast, almost flamenco guitar work backed up by horns and a great percussion section. They were a band that was obviously enjoying playing together. I bought the album on the spot and it hardly left my player for the rest of the year.
Burlap garnered a lot of positive press following the release of this album and was often cited as one of the best new bands on the Christian music scene (even winning an award for album of the year). Sadly they never capitalized on the buzz. They contributed a couple of songs to some compilation albums, but within a couple years of their debut they broke up. Lead singer Steven Delopoulos soldiered on as a solo artist, but the Burlap sound was no more. Things even got a little ugly as one member of the band took over the official band website to promote his new project without consulting the rest of the band. The split seemed to be pretty personal.
A couple years ago, rumors started going around that Burlap was getting back together and releasing more music. These rumors were seemingly confirmed by members of the band. Again, these rumors ground to a halt when guitarist Johnny Philippidis (who’s also Delopoulos’ cousin) was almost killed during a road rage incident in New York. After months of recuperation, Johnny is again playing music with Steven and the two are writing another Burlap to Cashmere album. The timeline is constantly changing, but my hopes are high that we will be treated to more great music from these guys sometime soon!
1998 was also the year that my grandfather Erwin Siems passed away very suddenly. We made a hasty trip up to Fergus Fall, MN, for the arrangements and funeral. I have the vivid memory of lying on a trundle bed at my grandparents’ house the night before the funeral. I was listening to the Burlap album when “Eileen’s Song” came on. It’s a love song, but at that moment the song seemed to mean something different to me. It was a comforting song, speaking into my grief with a beautiful picture of someone being freed from the pain and brought into a place of rest. I listened to that song over and over again during that trip and in the following weeks and I now associate it with all the feelings I had at the time; feelings of loss and of hope that I will get to hang out with my grandfather again someday and talk about the Minnesota Twins and those dang gophers that were always digging up his yard.