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Michael Tracy Evolves and Proves He’s Still Got Soul

Michael Tracy’s 2015 album Gonna Smile was a tightly packed, hard hitting, bluesy rocker of a album that punched right through the singer/songwriter stratosphere and launched Tracy to new rock n’ roll heights. The comparisons to Petty, Springsteen, Seger, and Mellencamp were warranted, though Tracy often distanced himself from those legends with his uncompromising energy that felt akin to punk, even if it didn’t sound like like it. With his new album, Still Got Soul, Tracy makes yet another aspect of the musical genre he so desperately loves his own, and in turn comes up with some of the most powerful and moving songs he’s written yet.

As great as Gonna Smile sounded, and still sounds, it was a bit breathless with its pacing, pounding riffs, and rhythms. Rarely on the album did it seem like Tracy stopped to catch his breath. There’s nothing wrong with that when making a full on rock record, but sublimity can really only be reached when the listener and the artist are given the opportunity to breathe and let the music take them to aural realms that the artist hasn’t, at least as powerfully, visited before. If Gonna Smile radiated punk energy, Still Got Soul evolves Tracy’s sound into a more introspective post-punk vibe, even if, like how the previous album didn’t particularly sound punk, Still Got Soul doesn’t necessarily sound post-punk. It’s all in how it feels.

Perhaps the best example of Tracy’s evolution is the amazing track off Still Got Soul titled “No More Waiting.” Gone are the blistering bluesy solos and saxophone bridges. Bright airy chords and echoing vocals highlighted by some equally echoing percussion announces that Tracy has evolved from Ramones-like tightly wound speed to U2-like sonic expansiveness and simplicity of structure, that is actually deceptively complex and displays a supersonic heft that is rarely executed this well in today’s rock music. It’s a breathtaking track that will get out the lighters and cell phone flashlights in arenas and give you chills (it’s called frisson) while listening to it on repeat through your headphones. Yes, “No More Waiting” is that great. It’s a career-making song…as if Tracy actually needed another one of those. It’s going to fill up the space in those aforementioned arenas with its expansive sound.

Even on the more hard hitting tracks, like album opener “Laughter,” atmospheric bridges take the place of muddy water solos, and when the solo does appear, it’s more restrained and focused on generating heft rather than boggy slog. Title track “Still Got Soul” is the ultimate rock fan’s song. Tracy pays tribute to everyone from Zeppelin to The Beatles in his lyrics and Springsteen to Green Day with his acoustic guitar and backbeat. It’s another great song that eschews big time solos and instead makes the most use of the space between the rhythm guitar riffs. If “No More Waiting” will fill up the open space in an arena’s acoustics, “Still Got Soul” will get the arenas’ crowds on their feet with their arms in the air. Make no mistake though, this is transcendent stuff, not dopey “get your hands in the air like you just don’t care” drivel. This is rock with heart… and soul.

At this point, if you’re still with me, you’re probably thinking that Still Got Soul is the best album since Revolver. Well, it’s good, but it’s not that good. “My Lisa,” for example, feels a little forced, even if it does put Tracy in the company of The Killers, if not in a strictly overproduced sense, but in the storytelling, slightly retro sounding, lyrical and rhythmic sense. “Call Me Wild” suffers from a lack of inspiration and frankly feels out of place on the album. Tracy does his best to sound slightly menacing, but instead brings to mind some of the lighter moments of 80s hair sentimentality. These moments are fleeting and easily overlooked and forgiven though. Still Got Soul’s best moments way outshine these less illuminating ones.

Still Got Soul is a portrait of an artist who is evolving while continuing to remain true to his considerable singer songwriter talents and rock n’ roll roots. “Hopeful,” one of the album’s closing tracks, sums up the album’s overall feel and sound. A driving rhythmic track with some beautiful acoustic and electric guitar tones, “Hopeful” exudes its titled sentiment without devolving into sentimentality, much like Tracy himself never does in his music.

The CD Release party is this Saturday at The Fillmore Underground. RSVP & grab tickets and information here!

Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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