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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Me Died Blue

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 May
Me Died Blue
Sounds like … take the vocal distinctness of Cat Stevens, cross it with the storybook songwriting of Harry Chapin and the eclectic instrumentation of Paul Simon, and you've got the framework of Delopoulos's solo debutAt a Glance … this former Burlap to Cashmere front man steps into the solo spotlight, further developing his distinct vocals, prolific songwriting, and ethnic flair

Flash back nearly five years to New York's venerable Bitter End night club where a group of locals called Burlap to Cashmere honed its chops one sold-out weekend after another, becoming local heroes almost overnight. Between the band's sonic explosiveness, ethnic instrumentation, and songwriting genius, members had no trouble earning excited responses night after night, nor did they have any problem attracting interested record labels. In the blink of an eye, the guys inked a joint partnership with A&M/Interscope and Squint, taking their show well beyond the Big Apple and on the road with the likes of Train, Jars of Clay, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

After releasing a near gold-selling debut, Anybody Out There?, and the subsequent single, "Basic Instructions," the band was in high demand, drawing serious crowds to diverse venues from summer festivals to clubs to churches. As jaw dropping as the band's concerts were in every city, traveling over 200 dates a year certainly was taxing on members, particularly singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Steven Delopoulos, who at the peak of the band's fame stepped back from the chaos to refocus his songwriting direction.

And thanks to the newly formed record label union of Universal South and Monroe Jones's eb+flo, Delopoulos is able to make those thoughts see the light of day on his brand new Me Died Blue project. Anyone who's appreciated this artist's past songwriting efforts will fall in love with the solo debut from the very first verse, as Delopoulos (with the Grammy Award-winning Jones serving as primary producer) explores previously untapped influences that wouldn't have fit within Burlap's contexts. That exodus starts on the project's kick off cut, "Another Day," that sounds like a throw back to the '70s singer/songwriter era in which Delopoulos pays tribute to the likes of Cat Stevens and Harry Chapin. His voice quivers with passion as the thematic self-analysis unfolds, and the attention to descriptive detail will make listeners hang on every word.

The vibe mellows out to finger-picking simplicity (along the lines of Paul Simon) on "Jungle Trail," during which Delopoulos yearns with beauty, vulnerability, and ease for a Higher Power amidst the chaos of creation. Redemption for past mistakes is the focus of the title cut, where he once again tips his hat to Cat Stevens in both vocal inflection and lyrical illustration, lacing the track with an ethnic vibe. A remembrance of Delopoulos's Greek heritage is even further demonstrated on "Mediterranean Waters," which, appropriately enough, was written on an Island in Greece. Not only does the jazzy structuring sound like a fitting soundtrack to lunch at a Greek café, it's also a deeply personal flashback to Delopoulos's post-adolescent coming of age as a young Greek/American.

Additional points of interest include the off-the-wall Harry Chapin-styled humor of "Rocky Boat," the contagious sing-a-long "Runaway Train" ("Peace Train" anyone?), and the humorous "Here I Go Again" about having a crush on a girl in which a relationship never materialized. "Holy Sunlight" takes the cake for the most spiritually slanted selection on the record, offering a variety of scenarios, touching on baptism's renewing power and a person's elation over their salvation.

There's also a pair of tracks ("Seasons" and "People Come and Go") that die-hard Burlap fans may recognize from previous concert incarnations, though on record each sounds much more organic and profound. Both tracks provide blanket statements on life's various stages and the people we meet along the way, calling to light the paradox of life. "Seasons" swirls with bluesy chord progressions and cultural tints, while "People Come and Go" falls somewhere in between a dirge and a hymn, channeling the idea of going from "light into darkness, darkness into light."

By the time the disc is through, Delopoulos unequivocally earns the position of being Christian music's premiere singer/songwriter (yes, this critic will even go so far as to say he's better and more real than even Bebo Norman) who not only avoids regurgitated rote and cheesy clichés, but rips open his ribcage to spew out substance and style. The only element that some past fans might find disappointing is Me Died Blue's lack of heart-pumping jam sessions, such as Burlap's "Anybody Out There?" and "Basic Instructions." It's doubtful that Delopoulos will ever return to those roots based on his obvious departure throughout this record, but rest assured it's the beginning of a productive new path that will only evolve for the better.