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"When you can get a song across with just a guitar and a voice, that's when you know it's working. Full-band arrangements are great, but a good song has to have a solid core.” So says Indiana singer-songwriter Mark Hutchins, who put that philosophy to the test on his 2010 solo release, Sleepy Furnace, and once again on his latest full length, Liar's Gift. While it’s full of fleshed-out arrangements and sublime (even florid) textures, Hutchins made sure to stay true to the essence of the songs. The result is a deft blend of indie rock and folk- and country-tinged songcraft — with a healthy touch of Beatles influence. Says Hutchins: “Can’t escape that. Ever.”
Liar's Gift is packed with tight arrangements and a commitment to concise songcraft. The tunes on the album range from the jangly "North Anthony Allstars" to the straight-up rocking title track and "All Good Enthusiasts." Liar's Gift also features banjo-driven raveups ("Specialist") old-school country shuffles ("Controlled Conditions") and haunting atmospherics ("Estancia"). BluesGrays manages to gracefully straddle a few genres simultaneously.
So, how do you put the “song first” ethos into practice? In Mark’s case, he's made sure to play his tunes in as many different venues and lineups as possible. From unamplified solo acoustic shows to duo sets with Toledo, OH-based cohort Dan Greunke to 4-,5-, even 6-piece-band rock-outs (complete with banjo and mandolin), Hutchins takes every opportunity to push and pull his songs as far as they can go. He points to a pair of shows he played in the same night: “The first was a super-quiet art gallery opening, solo, with an acoustic guitar. Two hours later, I played a rock club with a full band and electric guitars. It was very rewarding being able to do the same songs in both settings in the same day.”
Mark started out as a self-taught kid in the country, playing a right-handed guitar upside-down. He still plays that way. Stints with energetic acoustic duos, a heavy college-rock band, a healthy dose of solo shows, a 3-piece power-pop act, and, finally, Vandolah (a project that most resembles and predates his latest work and released three albums) have allowed Mark to jump from introspective acoustic songs to full-blown rock outs, without losing the common threat that unites it all: solid songwriting. Liar's Gift is available at regional record stores, CD Baby, and via iTunes and other digital outlets. You can also find Mark's music at markhutchins.bandcamp.com.