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Back in the nineties, singer/songwriter Peter Hutchison led Subduing Mara and (with Miracle Legion guitarist Mr. Ray Neal) Lucas Shine, a pair of alternative rock powerhouses that never caught on with more than a small cult audience. Talent and passion persevere, however, and now Hutchison has a new band called Empire of Light. Picking up on Lucas Shine’s alt.country tendencies, Let There Be Light goes full-on Americana, though without the dry aridity that often comes from such a designation. Though the group skips down the usual musical roads in this arena – rock-refreshed country (“They Don’t Come Back,” “Pretty Girls & Whiskey”), world-weary anthemry (“Dodged a Bullet,” “Broken”), heartfelt folk rock (“Good News,” “Someday I’ll Get It Right”) – it does so with unfailing taste and a strong sense of melody. The raspy-voiced Hutchison has always been a vocalist of great personality, and thus uninterested in imitating either the honkytonkism of C&W traditionalists or the faux soul affectations of the rockier facet of the No Depression diamond. Thus he infuses each track with personality, taming the passion that occasionally overwhelmed Mara into a controlled burn that nails his heart to his sleeve without drawing blood. Time will tell if Empire of Light will have more luck than Hutchison’s previous bands – sometimes it feels like good songs performed with verve and skill just don’t have a market anymore. But as with those acts’ work, Hutchison can certainly look on Let There Be Light with pride.
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