Belgium Review: Acting Natural “Acting Natural”

17 Nov

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Lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist Eric Carnevale, bassist James David Maney and drummer Jesse Leonard are the three band members of the formation ‘Acting Natural’. Originated in Tampa, Florida, they began to play music together as teenagers of almost 13 years old. Under the group name, they have now released a first mini-album with six self-composed songs.

On the cover of this ep and also in the accompanying video clip of the opening song “The One”, they look like their sixty-part hairpiece and their neat black costumes with tie a sixties version of ‘The Beatles’ or three of the ‘Fab Four’. The Liverpool band is therefore the main source of inspiration for the music that has created this recently moved American trio to New York City for their first album.

Acting Natural wants to revive the golden age of the rock’n’roll music anno 2017 with their “straight-to-the-rack” melodic pop songs that are broadcast three times. “The One” is the first example of this, but also the first single “Pairadice” and “Missed The Train” closure belong to this category. That typical sixty sound is also heard in the quieter ballads “Nicole” and “Bloom”, trying to show that they are targeting a wider audience than just the Beatles fans.

The song “Early Morning” is a piano ballad that could also have been on a Beatles record of the early 1960s, and even the voice and vocal style of Eric Carnevale could be attributed to the young Paul McCartney listeners. The future will have to show whether there is still enough interest in this sound that made such a furore half a century ago. But the benefit of the doubt deserves these gentlemen of Acting Natural.




US Review: Michael Tracy “Still Got Soul”

17 Nov
Title – ‘Still Got Soul’
Artist – Michael Tracy
In case you weren’t aware, it was early 2011 when Michael Tracy began his journey as a singer/songwriter, stepping on stage at a local open mic in Charlotte, NC, to nervously perform some songs he had just written.

He had spent his early 20’s in the Navy, stationed on both coasts and traveling to countries throughout the Mediterranean during his time in the military.

The open mic performance awakened something in Tracy and he continued honing his chops that first year, jumping on stages all over Charlotte and jamming with local musicians. Indeed, he went into the studio and recorded his first album, Enough Small Talk, which he released in November 2011.

Over the next two years, Michael put a band together and impressed audiences with his high-energy and soulful performances. Michael then returned to the studio and produced his next album Gonna Smile, which was signed by the indie label Spectra Records and released in February 2015.

After a falling out with his label, Tracy traveled to LA and recorded three songs with Los Angeles producers Bob Marlette (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice Cooper) and Sahaj Ticotin (Ra) that would find themselves on his early-2016 release Love And Worries; a short collection of previously unreleased material.

Michael and Sahaj then got together in late 2016 (co-writing an original Holiday tune that Michael had been working on called “Poinsettia Red”) and at the turn of 2017, and having been inspired to start his own independent record label, Tracy’s next full-length album Still Got Soul was born.

1. “Laughter”
2. “My Lisa”
3. “Still Got Soul”
4. “Call Me Wild”
5. “No More Waiting”
6. “Sweet Smile”
7. “Savannah Nights”
8. “Shake It”
9. “Hopeful”
10. “Raven”
11. “Poinsettia Red” – Bonus Track

The album features 11 tracks, inclusive of the aforementioned “Poinsettia Red” and will be released this upcoming November 17th, 2017 via Tracy’s very own label, the TW Music Group.

Listening to it today and wow, it’s like all roads traveled by Tracy, good, bad and ugly, led him to the storytelling section of his life just perfectly. Like a well worn troubadour, his work is of the highest, finest, rawest quality, not one lyric too much, not one sentiment not having been felt by us all at some stage.

His unique sound is rooted in gospel, rhythm & blues, rock, soul, and country, and that all comes through on Still Got Soul. From rockers such as “Laughter”, “Call Me Wild”, and the brilliantly perky “Shake It”, through the Southern nature of “Savannah Nights” and the heartfelt soul of “Still Got Soul”, on into the captivated yearns of “Hopeful”, the album is simply chock full of gems.

Michael Tracy @ Facebook

Explore this interview about how a DIY band was able to book over 500 shows!

17 Nov

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“Your brand is your story, and for musicians, having a story that resonates is what it’s all about.” Click here for more!


US Review: Jennifer Saran “Soulful Christmas”

17 Nov

Jennifer Saran to Release New Holiday Album “Soulful Christmas” on Nov. 24th, 2017 | New Single “Christmas Lover” feat. The Temptations

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San Francisco, CA – JENNIFER SARAN is a North American alt-pop/adult contemporary artist, songwriter, and vocalist based in Hong Kong. Over the past several years this versatile artist has put out several musical releases with notable collaborators such as Narada Michael Walden, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Carlos Santana, and her original songs and conscious messages have resonated with fans and media alike. During the holiday season of 2016, she released a double-single including the tracks “Merry Christmas To You” and “Soulful Christmas.” JENNIFER SARAN continues her tradition of holiday themed releases with the 2017 album SOULFUL CHRISTMAS, which launches the new single “CHRISTMAS LOVER” FEATURING THE TEMPTATIONS. Full of great original songs along with some wonderful holiday covers, SOULFUL CHRISTMAS will be available in stores and online in time for the holiday season, releasing worldwide on November 24, 2017.

SOULFUL CHRISTMAS was recorded at Walden’s legendary Tarpan Studios, in San Rafael, CA except for the “CHRISTMAS LOVER” single, which was recorded at Capital Studios in Los Angeles, including vocal sessions with Dr. Otis Williams and The Temptations. This new holiday single will hit the airwaves in late November, just in time for the 2017 winter holidays.

The Temptations
Photo Credit: Joel Margolis

JENNIFER SARAN’S holiday-themed debut album Merry Christmas, You Are Loved was released in 2015 to many great reviews and widespread radio exposure. Shortly thereafter in 2016 she released her follow-up album Walk With Me, both of which were produced and co-written by the legendary Grammy and Emmy-winning Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Sting, George Michael) and released through his Tarpan Records label.

In the summer of 2016, Jennifer Saran teamed up with the South African Grammy-winning male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Narada Michael Walden to create the single “Wake Up.” Jennifer traveled to South Africa to record with Ladysmith and to film scenes for the song’s music video. Also, making a special guest appearance on the track is multiple Grammy-winning legend Carlos Santana. This stunning collaboration was a heartfelt appeal to recognize and address worldwide inequality and impoverishment, a cause incredibly important to each of the amazing artists involved, and proceeds benefit the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. The “Wake Up” single and music video were released on November 11, 2016, and were featured on Saran’s third album, also titled Wake Up, produced and co-written by Narada Michael Walden and released in the early Summer of 2017.

JENNIFER SARAN’S music has had reviews pouring in from across the globe, and she has done interviews on both syndicated national radio stations in the US and on BBC 2 in the UK. The “Wake Up” single had wide reaching worldwide exposure and was reviewed and mentioned in a variety of magazines and websites including Songwriting Magazine, Women Talking, and an in-depth interview on BBC Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday hosted by Clare Balding. The “Wake Up” music video aired on over 100 broadcast video outlets across the US, including rotation on California Music Channel, PC Music Pool and The Sound Chamber, reaching millions of viewers. On social media, the video has had over 100,000 views across Facebook and YouTube.

JENNIFER SARAN is as prolific as she is profound, and she is constantly working on new music. There is already a new full-length Jazz-themed album in the works, produced by NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN and scheduled for release in the Spring of 2018. Jennifer is the mother of 3 children, Paul, Phillip, and Anjali. She continues to write new songs and travels the world, trying to uplift, engage, educate and empower our future generations.

Pre-Order or preview the album now on iTunes at


16 Nov

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Staying true to who you are is important in life, and in the world of music, there is no other way. Virtuoso Drummer Cindy Blackman Santana has known who she was for a long time, and it certainly shows each time she gets behind the kit. Working in areas ranging from Jazz to Rock-n-Roll, she has done it all over the three plus decades of performing with renowned Jazz musicians as well as the likes of rockstars such as Lenny Kravitz.

Now looking to broaden her horizons and hone her skills as a vocalist, she recently released the colorful new single “Fun Party Splash” back in August with plans for a full-length album in the near future. Excited for the new challenge, Blackman Santana sat down to talk her extensive experience as a performer, life rocking with Lenny Kravitz, working with her husband Carlos Santana, staying healthy, and much more. – You have been involved in music essentially your entire life.  You have worked in Jazz, Rock-n-Roll, and have built an amazing career as a drummer. You have worked in other genres. I first wanted to ask you, what has this wild ride been like for you?

Cindy Blackman Santana – It has been incredible because I have been really blessed to be able to do what I love with playing music and with the different people that I have been able to play with. I’ve gotten really a wonderful dose of a lot of variation in music and a lot of traveling. The whole combination of everything that has come about has been a great blessing. – That is really great to hear. As you mentioned, you have built quite a resume in your years touring and recording as well as worked with a great group of people through the years. You have toured and recorded with a long list of artists as well as a broad range of personalities. From this vast experience that you have had in a broad range of genres, as well as a broad range of personalities, what have you learned from it all?

Cindy Blackman Santana – Goodness, there is so much that I have learned about music, about people, and about myself. I don’t even know where to start. With music, one of the earliest lessons that I learned from Jackie Mclean, when I played many years ago with his band, he said, “Treat my band as if it were your band and play the way you’d play with your band with me and my band.” That set a really incredible president for me, because when I play somebody’s music, when I play with any project, I ingest the music as if I wrote it. I put 1,000 percent of myself into it in the same way that I would if it was my own project. It doesn’t matter if I play a part or just a situation where you’re able to explore with improvisation, or whether it is group based music. Whatever the situation is, if I’m playing the beat, I play the beat like there’s no tomorrow. I give everything I got. If I’m exploring, then I explore.

That was really one of the greatest things I have learned that I carry with me throughout my entire career of playing. It is a beautiful thing to play with different people and to see where each person and group likes to go. That is something that I relate to in life as well, because every situation is different, you can’t treat every situation the same way. If you hang out with your friend from New York today and your friend from Alaska tomorrow, they may have 2 totally different head spaces. We might not get into the exact same thing, and that is ok because they are totally different people. That is another thing I learned about not only playing in musical situations, but also in life.

About myself, I’ve learned to be adaptable to the situation in order to make it work, but yet remain me and still be who I am, to still be Cindy, still be the drummer that I want to be. That’s a really important task that also is a concept, for me anyway, that I can translate into my everyday living, because again, I can be in this situation or that situation with different people, but I still have to be true to myself. – Those are very fascinating and important lessons life lessons to learn. As you said, those are things that you can apply to everyday life. You have been very busy through the years touring, and among those times that you were touring and recording, you spent a great deal of time with Lenny Kravitz and his band. You toured through the years with them, you were also in the studio. What was that experience with Lenny and his band like?

Cindy Blackman Santana – We had a lot of playing time together, we logged in a lot of hours. We played for hours together a day, did multiple tours, and when we would do concert tours, we do soundcheck for 2 or 3 hours, then we would play 2 two-hour concerts. We would get a lot of playing together. It was really incredible to be a part of the growth of a unit like that and it became so tight that if you wanted to put some dental floss in between the beats you could do it, but you might have to tug a little bit (laughs). That was really a great experience. It was fun to also play for a massive amount of people. I’ve never done that before joining Lenny. The first time I did it, it was very daunting.

We played this festival, I think there were 70,000 plus people at the concert that day. It was an outside concert, so most people have on t-shirts and tanktops and a lot of guys had their shirts off, so you just saw their arms waving in the air because they were doing the wave. I had to adjust, because physically looking at it, my equilibrium was thrown off. It was really weird. The energy that you got back from those people was incredible. The fact that we were able to give them energy and feed them, make them feel good, was really amazing. That band is a Groove-based band, which was wonderful. To be responsible for making that many people feel good, dance, and want more, was amazing. All together, I played with Lenny for about 15 years. It was really incredible. – It certainly sounds like it was. Anyone who saw you in your time drumming for Lenny Kravitz, know you really were a focal point behind the drumkit, you really were a presence.

Cindy Blackman Santana – Thank you. Again, it was really amazing to be accepted by the people, by the fans, on the journey the band was on. Again, the energy you receive from that is really incredible and very inspiring. To be able to give that energy back to the people is really a blessing. Especially when your goal, a part of creating great music, is to make them feel good. For me and most of my friends, for my husband, our goals is to make great music, but you want to make them feel good. You want them to feel their heart’s center. From my perspective, when you make somebody feel their heart’s center, when you help, it’s not twisting their arm, but when you help them own their heart’s center, they start to feel love inside.

When everyone starts to beam love inside, it’s only natural and second nature that you beam it outside because it exudes out of you. That means that you transport that to your immediate surroundings. Then, that gets transported even further. Once we start doing that, the whole vibration changes and everyone starts to vibe on a higher level, a higher rate. Once we keep doing that, and again, this is something we need to focus on in these times too, it raises the vibration of everyone. That is the way to stop the negativity that we are seeing today. – That is a wonderful outlook and a good perspective for people to follow. Speaking of feeling good, you recently released a new single which is actually a pretty feel-good song from “Fun Party Splash.” It is very uplifting and energetic. What inspired that track?

Cindy Blackman Santana – It is a feel good song and it’s meant to be that. I was in the studio with my producer and he said, “How do you feel?” I said, “Good.” Then he said, “How do you want to make people feel?” I said, “Good.” He said, “What words come to your mind when you think of just having fun?” The first 3 words that came to my mind were “Fun Party Splash,” and he said, “Ok, write that.” We started writing and that’s what came out. It was exactly that, I’m so glad you picked up on that. I’m hopeful that other people will pick up on that too.

That song is purely meant to just have fun, not be irresponsible, but take the weight off your shoulders. It is to lift any kind of negative veil, even if only for a moment, so you can see light, joy, fun, and emit and transfer that to other people. That’s exactly what that song is meant for. That is my hope in terms of how people receive it and how it makes them feel. – Well, it certainly gives off that vibration. It included Carlos Santana on the guitar on the track. Now, most people know your signature work as a drummer, but you do actually have a very nice singing voice. Is singing something you have had a passion for through the years?

Cindy Blackman Santana – I thank you for that. Firstly, yes, Carlos sounds amazing on it. Regarding my singing, that is actually only the second song I ever sang, this is brand new. This is a real major voyage. The very first song I ever sang recently was back in July on the Santana/Isley Brothers’ song called “I Remember,” which is a ballad. I wrote and sang on that record. That was the very first song I sang. “Fun Party Splash” is the second song that I sang and recorded. We have 6-7 more vocal songs that are going to be on the record, the complete record when it comes out. This is a brand new venture, a new terrain, a new territory, a whole new realm that I am exploring. – That is really cool. It has to be exciting at this point of your career to have something new and fresh like that.

Cindy Blackman Santana – It is, yes. It’s really different and it is also fun. It’s work too because I have to practice singing. I know how to practice and warm up the drums, but I have no idea what to do with singing. My sister, who is a vocalist, recommended a vocal teacher for me who happens to be a friend of ours. Now I have a vocal coach, she is teaching me different techniques and helping me out a lot with the breathing, the voice, how not to hurt myself, and how not to strain. There are things you need to know to protect your organic voice.

I know how to protect myself now as a drummer. I know to practice, I know how to do things, I’m very comfortable with that. Learning this, the new paradigm for me is really cool because I consider myself to be a perpetual student of life. I always look to learn something. To study, and to learn this, is just inspiring for me. – It certainly sounds like it and it will be exciting to see where it goes. You mentioned that there are actually 6 or 7 more vocal tracks. That said, a record will soon follow. What stylistic direction are you going go with this record? It is certainly compelling since you have an eclectic background with Jazz and Rock-n-Roll.

Cindy Blackman Santana – They are already recorded. Most of the songs are mastered and ready to go. We just need to finish a couple of more things with some other tracks that are on the record and then they will be completed. The vocal stuff has already been finished. In terms of the content of the record, it is a record that contains a lot of the stuff that I love. People might misconstrue that as being eclectic or being misguided or undirected, but that’s not it. I didn’t want to do a record with just vocals, because there is more to me than just that. I’m a drummer who likes to play, explore, and solo. I’m a jazz musician so there’s a lot of stuff that I like to cover. This record entails elements of all those things.

Carlos is playing on almost all of the vocal tracks, but he is also playing on the instrumentals as well. Vernon Reed is on it too. There are other people who are on the record too, so it has punch, whether they are instrumentals or whether they are vocals. It’s got a lot of dynamic range. I’m really proud of what we are putting together and where this thing is going. I hope that people see it for what it is – it’s an offering of things that I love. It’s not that I’m confused, it’s not that I don’t know where I want to go, I just love a lot of things. So instead of giving a bouquet of just red roses, I’m giving a bouquet of a bunch of different colors, a bunch of different textures of flowers, and that’s what this record is. – Excellent, and that honestly makes the best music. It is personal and from the heart, you are giving people a piece of yourself. It will be exciting to see when the record does come out. Now, as we have spoken about, you are very busy. You are on tour with Santana and the schedule is pretty packed through 2018. Being a touring musician, having spent a lot of years on the road, how do you manage your time away from home? Also, how do you keep yourself healthy?

Cindy Blackman Santana – I don’t drink alcohol. Also, I don’t smoke anything. I live in as clean of a way as possible in terms of what I ingest. I eat as cleanly as possible. I carry a vitamix blender so I do a lot of blended foods. I drink a lot of water. There are also certain supplements that I take. I find quiet times and I try to get as much rest as possible. I’m not a partier, I’m not gonna be hanging out all hours of the night. It is not that I never hung out, I have done it before, but as a rule, I don’t do that. I like to go back to my room, chill out, relax, find my center, and make sure that I’m well rested physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I take care of myself. I don’t get involved in extraneous things that go on that a lot of people get involved with and I’ve never have. I’ve never done that. My beginnings, touring before Lenny, I never did that. During Lenny I never did, and after Lenny I never did that. It is just not my personality. I take care of myself. – Well that is a good thing and it certainly helps because a tour schedule can be very rigorous as well as exhausting.

Cindy Blackman Santana – Yes, it can. You give a lot, especially when you’re coming from the heart. You give a lot to people, you give a lot of energy, and that’s a good thing. That said, you also have to remember our organic bodies need replenishment and they need to be fed proper fuel. I don’t understand how somebody can rationalize that if they are driving a Ferrari, you have to give it high octane fuel, the best that you can find, gonna give it premium gas. Yet, they eat McDonalds, Burger King, or Kentucky Fried Chicken as a staple. That’s their diet and I don’t understand that, it’s improper fuel. That’s not fuel that’s going to yield your highest physical, mental, or spiritual output.

I enjoy my food and I enjoy good tasting food, but I look at food as fuel. I’m not saying I don’t have a dessert or anything because I do, I like sweets, but I always balance myself. It’s just finding the balance to keep yourself healthy and feed yourself with proper fuel that will allow you to operate mentally, physically, and spiritually on a level that you want to. For me, I want to operate on the highest level possible. Everything I eat/ingest, whether it is a liquid, food, or thoughts, is on as high a level I can possibly make it. I have my fun too, but like I said, I make sure that I balance myself. – Balance is essential. My last question is pertaining to film because at CrypticRock we cover all sorts of music but we also cover movies, particularly Horror and Science Fiction. If you are fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?

Cindy Blackman Santana – I love Science Fiction. I am a Science Fiction nut! I love anything having to do with Sci-Fi and futuristic movies. First of all, I think that there is a lot of information given in those movies, but also movies that really stir the imagination. They open your brain up and help you imagine things that are just bigger than life, or at least appear to be. I love creative thinking and creativity. Sci-Fi movies are among my favorite movies ever. I always loved Star Trek, I am certainly a Treky. I like the older TV shows like The Twilight Zone. Those things are always intriguing to me.

I also love movies like Wonder Woman, it is very interesting to me. I enjoyed the original series Planet of The Apes, and the new ones. Also, 2001 A Space Odysseyand any movie like that. I also like Drama and  Comedies. One of my favorite movies is Wag the Dog (1997). I like Bringing Down the House (2003), that’s really funny. I love movies in general, but Sci-Fi, they are probably my favorite movies. I like The X Files a lot, which is a TV show, not a movie, but they made a movie of it. Also, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), all those kind of movies I love.



US Review: Acting Natural “Acting Natural” EP

16 Nov


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Looking at the cover of Acting Natural’s self-titled debut EP, it’s easy to guess this trio was influenced by The Beatles. And of course the band’s name makes me think of the Buck Owens song “Act Naturally,” which was famously covered by The Beatles in 1965, with Ringo Starr on lead vocals. And, sure, The Beatles are among this young group’s influences. But they’re not trying to copy that band, and their sound takes inspiration from other places and other decades than the 1960s. They possess a good sense of fun, and they seem to have given a good deal of attention to getting the vocals just right. The band is made up of Eric Carnevale on vocals, guitar, piano, organ and percussion; James David Maney on bass and vocals; and Jesse Leonard on drums and vocals. Originally from Tampa, Florida, they are now based in New York.

The CD’s opening track, “The One,” has a distinct 1960s pop rock sound, both in the music and in the vocal delivery, especially in the way they harmonize. But it is not an attempt to imitate a particular sound, but rather it shows a mix of influences. For example, the cool bass line has a more contemporary feel. And partway through, the song takes on a different groove for an interesting bridge. The lyrics are fairly straightforward: “I don’t wanna play games/I don’t wanna be the fool/I just wanna be the one for you.” And who doesn’t want to hear that? That’s followed by “Nicole,” which has a mellower pop sound. This one has more of a 1980s thing happening, particularly in the chorus.

For me, this EP starts to really get going with “Pairadice,” a fun and catchy tune, its title obviously a play on the word “paradise” – that love is both a glorious thing and a gamble. They play on that idea throughout, with lines like “You can’t win every time” and “Sometimes I think I must have lost my mind.” But it’s the sound of this one that really makes it a memorable track, with elements of disco and a catchy vocal line in the chorus. It’s ultimately a positive-sounding tune. As good as it is, it’s the following track, “Bloom,” that is my personal favorite. This one has a sweeter folk-pop vibe that is absolutely wonderful. And check out the opening lines: “Oh, the snow, the birds and the bees/And the gin and the weed and the love.” I love how they start to establish a sort of cheesy vibe with that first line, “the birds and the bees,” then immediately work against that with the second line, which is a continuation of the thought, but in a more realistic direction. “The years tick by/The toys and the bikes and the games/And the spies, they just don’t shine like they used to/Holidays just aren’t the same.” This is a really good song.

“Early Morning,” to my ears, has the most obvious nod to The Beatles in its sound. “Left my heart open like a door that I kept cracked/Just for you.” The EP then concludes with a fun, solid rock song titled “Missed The Train.” “I missed the train/Wondered why I came/Addicted to the pain/In every memory that we made.” And I love that lead on guitar in the second half of the song.

CD Track List

  1. The One
  2. Nicole
  3. Pairadice
  4. Bloom
  5. Early Morning
  6. Missed The Train

Acting Natural was released on CD on October 27, 2017. It was released digitally on September 22nd.


Take a look at this interesting article: “Ten Tips To Make You A Better Songwriter”

16 Nov

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“Songwriting is one of the more abstract parts of the music process, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have rules. Here are some tips to help you get better at writing songs. ” Click here to check it out!

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