For as long as anyone can remember, the difference between "Christian rock" and "Christians rocking" has never really been a question of any particular artist's religious affiliation, but rather one of the degree to which that faith informs the music: record sales aside, the only difference between Bruce Springsteen and Bebo Norman is that while the former's songs show a love for Jesus, the latter's give their blatant and unfiltered praise to Jesus Christ himself. And while few ever begrudged an artist their personal spirituality, the generally positive and uplifting nature of most modern Christian rock has kept it from crossing over into the wider rock community, save for the vague, marketable hostility of a group like P.O.D. or the sun-soaked anthems of Switchfoot or Mae.
But for a brief (very brief, almost instantaneous) moment in the late 1990s, New York-based septet The Bitter End, a venue whose backlog of performers reads like a who's-who of anyone to ever play Greenwich Village. The shows were successful enough to first yield a live EP, Live at the Bitter End, released in mid-1997, but also landed them a deal with A&M Records.
Released October 27, 1998, Anybody Out There? gave proper studio treatment to the five songs from the group's live EP, but also fleshed out seven others from Delopoulos and Philippidis' back catalog. Co-produced by guitarist David Rolfe and hitmaker Jay Healy (already versed in bringing spiritualized rock to life through his work with Live), the group's wide, guitar-heavy arrangements lent themselves well to Rolfe's six-string ear and Healy's punchy mixing style.
Flamenco guitars intact and hand percussion aplenty, Anybody's musical foundation drew as much from the Old World as its lyrical themes drew from the Old Testament, Delopoulos singing about "Basic instructions before leaving Earth" (form the acronym) over the wild chants and Meditteranean guitar arrangements of "Basic Instructions," or later calling the faithful to arms through the marching battle hymn of "Scenes."
But beyond those obvious nods to their Greek roots and Christian faith, Delopoulos and Philippidis avoided any hint of gimmickry by consistently applying those sensibilities, be it to their roots rock or to the more conventional and modern songs, such as the haunting, bare-knuckled contemplation of the title track or the gentle reassurance of "Eileen's Song."
Anybody Out There flirted with gold certification, and A&M loved what they saw enough to re-release Live at the Bitter End while the group went on tour. Anybody won the 1998 Dove Award for Rock Album of the Year, but the group was not long for the big time as the pressures of being a touring, major label band took their toll on the group, especially on Delopoulos. Burlap to Cashmere contributed a pair of then-new tracks, "From Above" and "Daisies and Roses," to the Streams and Roaring Lambs compilations, then went on open-ended hiatus in late 2000.
Delopoulos struck out on his own in 2002, and in 2003 released his first solo disc, Me Died Blue. Blue passed on much of the overt Biblical references of Anybody, but still tread much of the same thematic terrain in its songs of tested faith and long-shot hopes and dreams. The album garnered no small acclaim – Paste described it as "boisterous and deeply moving," while Christian Music Today said Delopoulos had become "Christian music's premiere singer/songwriter" – and Delopoulos followed it up with 2007's Straightjacket.
Straightjacket covered similar territory as Me Died Blue, which by normally would have meant Burlap to Cashmere was through; given the fickle and fleeting nature of the music industry, the group's decade of inactivity might as well have been a lifetime. However, Delopoulos and Philippidis gave fans a glimmer of hope with the announcement they would open, as a duo, for Christian rock heavyweights Jars of Clay – an especially triumphant moment for Philippidis, now fully and marvelously recovered from an extremely serious 2005 road-rage incident.
Word came out that a new album would see the light of day sometime in 2008, but the year came and went and the disc never materialized, and fifteen years later the group had finally come full circle, the group reborn in the same form from which it began: two cousins, some outstanding fretwork and a whole lot to say about the man upstairs.