“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me.” — “In Christ Alone”
One of my favorite music bands is Burlap to Cashmere. The pop-rock-folk group burst on the scene about 13 years ago with a critically heralded album, “Anybody Out There,” that combined the best of folk, Mediterranean and pop styles, mixed with deep, cryptic, and often spiritual lyrics. I’ve written about before about lead singer and songwriter Stephen Delopoulos. He’s one of my favorite new poets. After 12 years apart, the group reformed last year and in July released a most spectacular album, “Burlap to Cashmere.”
Delopolous is a believer, as is his cousin and musical collaborator Johnny. New York Greek Orthodox (think “My Big, Fat Greek Wedding”), they blend elements of their faith into their songs without making them the focus of the songs. They just make great music. With the new album, the music is best described as a fusion of late 60’s folk, 70’s folk, Mediterranean and pop with a slight country twang at times. Think Cat Stevens meets Simon & Garfunkel meets Gordon Lightfoot meets… Phil Collins. The songs work on just about any radio platform.
But their songs are not typical secular music. Even though there is no gospel presentation in their lyrics nor “testimony” in their interviews, the Christian mindset is implanted in everything Delopolous writes. And he writes some interesting and magnificent songs that are not common on CCM albums, either. For example, three of the 11 songs on the new album deal with the subject of death. Death? Isn’t that morbid? Not if seen from a Christian mindset. Take this song for example: “Love Reclaims the Atmosphere.” I posted the video below. It is about a lady who is dying of some disease. The world around her is falling apart, including her garden. But she makes a conscious choice to not let death — the fear and power of death — to win over her life. Listen to/watch the song below:
Isn’t that beautiful? The transition from life on earth to life in heaven can either be dark and morbid or filled with hope in eternal life and future resurrection. Will love reign or will pain? Another song, “Tonight” speaks of an old man experiencing the last night of his life on earth. But instead of it being sour and hopeless, the man is rejoicing that he’s leaving his “fleshly desires” and transitioning in glory to heaven. The third song, “The Other Country,” plays off the concept that this world we live in is one country and heaven another. And when we die, we merely transition to the other country. It’s personal to the songwriter. “I can see the other country” were the last words of a loved one as they lay on their deathbed, Delopolous said. How incredible!
By contrast, I’ve also been listening to a new artist named Susan Enan, an Irish woman living in Brooklyn, who does not have much of a redeemed mindset flowing through her songs. She has a song called “The Grave” that has no up side to death. The grave is it. Death is morbid. The music itself has a minimalist piano, stripped down feel.
But Burlap’s album is filled with themes of a redeemed mindset without ever becoming a platform that preaches those themes. Or does it? You see, a truly renewed mindset will come out in a person’s words and actions when they’re not paying attention. Delopolous doesn’t write “Christian” music but his music is definitely Christian. Because he’s a Christian and he sees things from that mindset. There is great happiness and joy in the songs, youthfulness and longing, playfulness and love. He can talk about dancing with a Greek gal on Santorini in one song and about living the musician’s life on the road — in a van — in the next song.
In many ways, this is incarnational living. Making the truth of Christ alive in your life, in all areas, in all ways. Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit (Matt 7). I used to think Christian music had to be blatantly “Christian” in its lyrics. You know, if the name of God isn’t mentioned, then it isn’t a Christian song. But now I see it differently. Believers who write songs from a redeemed mindset have written Christian music.
I highly recommend Burlap to Cashmere’s new album. Just don’t be expecting standard songwriting and pop lyrics. Stephen Delopolous is a poet and uses word pictures to describe feelings and emotions and concepts. It takes at least five listens to get at the bottom of some of his tunes. But once you start to understand, you will be blessed. The instrumentation is top notch. I pray the Lord’s blessing on them.