Back in 2011, Michael Tracy first took to the stage at an open mic night in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. At the time, the US Navy veteran and father of two had no experience in song writing, no history of performing and had never worked in a recording studio in his life. Yet a little more than three years later, he can boast about self-producing and releasing material through indie label Spectra Records, partaking in promotional shows and winning a host of awards for his efforts.

The musician’s latest album, Gonna Smile, dropped on February 10th and features eleven easy listening soft rock tracks. Opener, “Old Paperback Novels”, is full of life and character. The fun instrumentation runs fast and well next to the fetching vocals. It’s followed up by the busy bass intro of “Enough Small Talk”. As it progresses, it exhibits some accomplished guitar work and a passionate melody.

Cool, crisp vocals march steadily through the verse of “Fashion and Fame” into a loud and lively chorus.  An energetic saxophone session acts as a bridge into the next verse and continues to make its presence felt in the background. It’s a vociferous number.

Expressive vocals ring out over hectic instrumentation during the opening salvo of “Red Sky”. They develop towards a mellow but spirited chorus in a song that builds constantly.

The guitars and saxophone play up a jazzy beat to begin “Wait for Me”. Vigorous vocals culminate in a riveting chorus that’s incredibly absorbing. Its successor, “Raven”, decides to tone things back a bit with an airy harmony and relaxing instrumentation. The result is a gentle, laid back composition.

“Sing Together” is a captivating anthem, with bright, cheerful guitars and emphatic, resonant vocals. “Ever Old Ever New” takes over next, showcasing a bracing riff that cuts through an emotional harmony. It’s a slow burning ballad that weighs heavy despite its reserved execution.

“Carolina” bounces along merrily with playful vocals and an irresistibly engrossing rhythm. “Gonna Smile” is another jazzy addition made up of jubilant instrumentation that becomes particularly frantic and fervent during the chorus.

The music and melody of “Devil’s Dancing” pound in ominously, building anticipation and creating an air of intrigue. A sense of foreboding is maintained all the way through, while the heavy sound makes for an epic and powerful finale.

For a man who had never dabbled in the art of making music five years ago, Michael Tracy has plenty about which to be proud. Gonna Smile is a proficient piece of work, whose pleasant sound carries a great deal of accessibility. The album is currently available for purchase on Tracy’s official site and through iTunes.

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Graduate of NUI Maynooth's Department of English, passionate writer of fiction and creative non-fiction alike. Mad about music, movies and books. If there's anything I enjoy more than listening, watching and reading, it's writing about what I listen to, watch and read! Check me out at davecsimpson.wordpress.com, find me on Twitter @davesimpson1 or drop me a line at dave@puremzine.com