Michael Tracy – Gonna’ Smile


I’ve been listening to Michael Tracy for a few years now and I’ll tell you why, because he’s good, plain and simple. He really didn’t even know he had this all in him, not too long ago, and that helps all the more as an interesting back story to this Seattle native’s life, who now resides in North Carolina. He’s a regular at the Fillmore in Charlotte, and he’s been tearing up the south consistently these last few years, and this is his first release with Spectra Records (but second full CD release). It hasn’t been easy, going from not even knowing you want to play music, to taking poems to an open mic night and suddenly finding it out, and then turning around and instantly pursuing it, but Michael did just that, like something right out of a fairytale. It’s a very interesting story and I find it enlightening, but it doesn’t seem to be found anywhere when researching him. I just happen to know how he came up so fast and found himself where he is today, by taking interest as a fan. He’s come quite a long way in a pretty short time, and this CD brings together songs he’s already recorded and been playing live for some time. It’s a well put together package for all that its worth, but just a new beginning for him, as he will go far from here, I know it. His band have been a great backbone along the way, featuring the likes of Boo English on guitar, Loren Bates on drums, Loren is also a northwest native. It’s not country, it’s not Americana, it’s not blues, not folk, it’s rock ‘n roll with all of that and a southern vibe, combined for a holy sound, all its own.

Leading off with the soothing Old Paperback Novels, the overall vibe is established in the perfection of just this one song. You want to hear more, and that’s the idea as things get a tad harder with the fantastic Enough Small Talk, which shows some signs of southern rock with its wild guitar playing and frantic pace, this song is killer, one of the best on the CD, with everyone shining, some decent vocals, it has everything. Track three Fashion And Fame, shows a more playful side, and the saxophone factor kicks in. This is the first song I ever heard by him which a couple of versions have been around, videos too. It’s another thing of perfection. Knowing most of these songs already it still all seems to sound so fresh on this release, and tracks like Red Sky and the jazzy Wait For Me bounce along nicely, making way for the beauty of the excellent acoustic number of the disc, Raven. This has a spiritual vibe, one of my favorite Michael Tracy tunes, it draws you in and doesn’t let go. There are things about it I would consider mediocre, tho’, including the vocals, which aren’t the strong point of these songs, but they work better than the average, and that is the overall production. It’s just not the strongest point to be found on offer. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, the songs carry the weight, the songwriting, their delivery and the musicianship and in the band balance it out to be what it is, and that’s very good, but the following number. Sing Together does about the least for me, having said that and still finding this CD to be somehow a one hundred percent effort. Next track Ever Old Ever New is probably my favorite of them all. It’s just brilliant in every way, and there is a great black & white video worth checking out as well. This track is a brooding one, where guitarist Boo English shines at his brightest point with some spooky searing guitar lines and a killer solo. Things carry out from here in the usual fashion with a few more good songs with some great instrumentation, particularly the rhythm section with Loren Bates keeping the groove solid, for an overall great release. And this comes from a guy, who not long ago, didn’t even know he wanted to be where he is today.

Stuff like this can’t be heard everywhere you look, but at the same time isn’t of the unfamiliar variety either, and that is some of the magic of Michael Tracy himself, as well. While he’s been compared lately to the likes of Petty and Springsteen and even Keith Urban, I would actually put him in a class all his own, and this CD along with it. There is a lot of soul going on here, with some great organ and saxophone. I can’t wait for the next one, which promises to be even a lot better, with higher production values, etc…


Larry Toering


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