Thursday, October 4, 2012
Shari Puorto wants to be remembered for having a voice that moves listeners. How it moves them isn’t as important.
“Whether it’s a really strong rocking blues song that gets you on your feet or a ballad that mesmerizes,” she says, “I just want you to feel something.”
The mandolin-heavy “Free” – winner of the 2010 Los Angeles Music Award’s Americana, Blues or Roots Song of the Year – certainly qualifies. It melds Susan Tedeschi self-taught soul, Bonnie Raitt country-rock sweetness and just a touch of Melissa Etheridge rasp. On the slide guitar-laden “Don’t Mess With Me,” off her most recent release Real, Puorto unleashes a similar raw self-assuredness that brings to mind greats like Etta James and Ruth Brown, themselves masters of evoking feeling.
But when the Los Angeles-based musician began performing eight years ago, she wasn’t serious about pursuing music as a fulltime gig and had no clue what her voicebox could do.
“I started as a back-up singer just enjoying the crowds and enjoying being on stage,” Puorto. “But I kept moving forward and ended up forming my own band. I’m happy as long as we keep moving forward and continue to play new gigs and more festivals.”
In June, Puorto and her band played the Irvine Blue Festival. More recently, they performed in Hermosa Beach on the same bill as renowned Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit.
Over the years, Puorto has joined the lineup with a number of big names, from former Allman Brother slide master Dickey Betts to the legendary Leon Russell to Ike Turner to blues guitar prodigy Joe Bonamassa.
“I think what I’ve learned most from being around those guys is to keep at it because this is where my soul and heart is,” she says. “I learned to just keep going and keep persevering.”
One of the most important things Puorto has taken away from being around high caliber acts: Do good by all the people who support her, whether its her backing band – Frank Scarpelli (bass), Craig Macintyre (drums), Jimi Seville (keys), Johnny Hawthorn (guitar) and Ray Yslas (percussion) – or the folks making plays for her behind the scenes.
“I couldn’t do what I’m doing alone,” Puorto says. “I need them as much as they need me.”
Producer/musician/songwriter Barry Goldberg – whose production credits include Percy Sledge and James Cotton – is one guy she’s teamed with repeatedly. He was the keyboardist for Bob Dylan’s backing band during his infamous 1965 electrified performance at the Newport Folk Festival, and works with her on both songwriting and producing.
“You know within the first 20 minutes of meeting somebody if you’re going to have chemistry with them and Barry and I immediately had that connection,” she says. “We work off each other’s energy very well.”
SHARI PUORTO performs at 9pm, Saturday, Oct. 6, at Sly McFly’s, 700 Cannery Row, Monterey. Free. 649-8050.