God bless those people who turn me on to new music. Whenever someone reaches out to me and says, “You need to hear this,” I will do it. It might happen right away, it might happen in six weeks, or even six months, but it will happen. I have notebooks filled with artists that I need to hear.
Of course if someone puts a copy in my hands, it tends to happen much quicker.
Recently I received a copy of Shari Puorto’s album MY OBSESSION and I can honestly say that I am obsessed with her. No, not in that creepy stalker kind of way, in that oh my great God, what an amazing talent kind of way. After hearing her vocal energy on a CD, I can’t wait for the opportunity to catch her live.
Since she tours California consistently, and I rarely get out there, I’ll be sending all of my West Coast friends to catch her live and report back to us. Of course, if Ms. Puorto ever steps into my neck of the woods, I’ll be first in line for tickets.
Her voice has been compared to all of the greats: Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, Etta James, and the one and only Janis Joplin. Those are fair comparisons, but it is my belief that future women singers will be compared to her. Her chops are silky smooth, or gritty, depending on the song; but they are always filled with soul. Her emotion is flat out in your face and there may be precious few that can do it any better.
In case you haven’t gotten the message, she’s the real deal and belongs not only in your record collection, but on every major stage you can find.
She is backed by so many great musicians: Tony Braunagel on drums; Johnny Lee Schell on guitars and bass; Jimmy Vivino on lead guitar for three tracks; Steve Fisher on lead and slide guitar for two tracks; Johnny Hawthorn on guitars and lap steel guitar for three tracks; Mike Finnigan on Hammond B3, piano, and electric piano on three tracks; frequent co-writer Barry Goldberg on piano for Workin The Room; Jim Pugh on piano and electric piano for three tracks; Bob Glaub on bass; Raymon Yslas on percussion; Darrell Leonard and Joe Sublett on horns; Background vocals were provided by Kenna Ramsey, Julie Delgado, and Mike Finnegan with Deb Ryder and Johnny Lee Schell providing backing vocals on What’s The Matter With The World.
I mentioned that Goldberg was a frequent co-writer with Puorto, as she wrote or co-wrote eleven of the twelve songs on the album. Other collaborators included Johnny Hawthorn, Tony Braunagel, and Jimmy Vivino.
The album kicks off with some prog rock sounds as she leads us into It’s A Damn Shame. It gets funky and STAX-y right quick and before you know it, she hooks you with the grit in her voice. This should get airplay on rock stations as well as the blues stations. Great opening that promises so much more.
She keeps right on rocking with Home Of The Blues, a hard driving number that grabs you quickly and doesn’t let go. It’s another strong song that I bet is a killer when performed live. Don’t even think about not moving around to this song.
I was a little surprised by the lyrics to Six Months Sober, as it was nothing like I thought it would be. Instead it was much better. Puorto and the band are still kicking in high gear – she’s got the energy of early punk rockers but the soul of a blues angel.
She slows the pace down for Sugar Daddy, but still keeps the funk up. This is the kind of song you would expect in a smoky room as she sings to all those men who dream of something other than what they’ve got. Just remember gents, it all comes with a price.
The tempo stays slow and steady for the title track, My Obsession. We all have some obsessions and Puorto is playful and she picks up the tempo describing her obsession with possessing every pair. It’s a fun number that I’m sure gets a great response live.
She strips down the orchestration for the country flavored Old Silo Road. It’s slow, languid, and beautiful to listen to. The B3 adds a little gospel feel to the song and this one bears hitting the repeat button a few times. Lovely song, just lovely.
We go honkytonking with Workin The Room, a fun number that should get just about any party started. Goldberg’s piano gets a great workout and they rhythm section gets into the swing of things nicely. This is another that has to be fun to see live!
We get back into the funk neighborhood for Better Left Unsaid. The STAX soul feel is unmistakable and would have been right at home on that label during their heyday. It’s a terrific song that might get a little overshadowed by some of the other songs on the album, but anyone that loves that sweet soul sound will gravitate to it quickly.
She tries to stay upbeat with What’s The Matter With The World, although she raises so many questions. We’ve all asked that question many times for many different reasons, but probably never with the great guitar licks and strong drum backbeat.
The tempo slows down, but the intensity increases for All About You, and when she turns the heat up, it goes way up. This is a great warning song – as in she is warning you about how things are going to be. Wise up fool.
There’s a country feel on Turned To Stone and since blues and country share a common ancestor, that’s not so bad. Hawthorn plays a little lap steel on the song to give it that feeling, and Puorto’s vocals are every bit at home in this arena as she is with the blues.
She ends the album with the only song she didn’t write or co-write, the classic When A Man Loves A Woman. She’s silky smooth with a voice that soars to the heavens. The song takes on a different feel with her vocals giving it an ironic twist. A very nice touch and it should help even the most jaded listener come around to loving her.
Yeah, I guess I’m an unabashed fan of Shari Puorto and can’t wait to hear what else she’s going to produce. I’ve gone the entire review trying not to mention how beautiful she is, as I don’t want anyone to think that that is the main reason as to why I love this album.
I’ve seen many beautiful women struggle to be taken seriously in music and I don’t know if Puorto has faced that same obstacle. I hope for her, and for all women’s sake that she did not. But any person who listens to her – and I mean really listen – they are bound to be affected by the depth of her talent and the beauty of her voice.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, she is based out of California, Los Angeles I believe, and may not tour too far from home. There are so many great venues and festivals in the Golden State, she may have no real reason to get out on the road. But if you want to know where she is playing, or you want to help yourself to some CDs, the best thing you can do is check out her website at http://www.sharipuorto.com/. Tell ‘er The Professor sent you.