Lightning’s Lessons comes from internationally renowned blues singer Shari Puorto and co-creator, Grammy nominated Doug Woolverton who together have realised Shari’s long-time dream to create music in the blues genre which, along with a lyrical sing-along book, educates children on multiple levels. Stuart A Hamilton for Blues Matters caught up with Shari and Doug to find out more…
BM: Where did the original idea come from and what are your aims for the project?
Shari: Not only do I love creating original music for my own band, but my long-time dream has been to write songs in the Blues/Roots genre targeting young children. My primary objective is the desire to introduce roots / blues music to them because I feel a lot of our music today is missing the depth I’ve always known in music growing up. Therefore, my hopes are to inspire children to get to know the musicians behind this great music, and to feel something from the music! I have such fond memories of listening to so many great artists with my parents in our living room. From Eric Clapton (Cream) to the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers Band, BB King, Etta James, Albert King, The Band, and on and on. For me, Etta James changed my life (and I’m talking at age 9)! So, partnering with Doug we created eleven original songs (thoughtfully produced with catchy melodies and choruses while encouraging participation) with an incredibly illustrated lyrical sing-along book. Then we gathered a team of top-notch musicians to bring it all home! We are calling this incredible multi-level experience, Lightning’s Lessons, Vol. 1 (featuring Blues All-Stars). Together the music and book can assist with literacy, spelling, and memorisation and will bring all sorts of family fun as well as in school fun! Incidentally, the music and book targets so much more than just young children. We say, ‘young children and the curious’. We have done a lot of reading about how music reaches people when perhaps simple conversations cannot. Therefore, the ‘curious’ is our children and adults with learning disabilities … also reaching everyone who loves the blues!
BM: How did you manage to get from that initial idea to actualisation?
Doug: Shari shared with me that she has always wanted to write and arrange a kids album to an illustrated book and (as I am with all of her ideas) I immediately loved the concept and wanted to help bring Shari’s dream and goal to reality. I called Chris Vachon the band leader and guitarist of Roomful of Blues (which I was the trumpet player of for 10 years) and asked if he’d be interested in playing guitar and also record the eleven songs Shari and I had demos for. He loved the idea and included Roomful of Blues drummer Chris Anzalone. We tracked all eleven songs as a core rhythm section which was super fun because the songs themselves are really fun, arranged well, and catchy. Shari and I then began calling our friends (whom we’ve both met touring over the years) to be a part of this exciting kids project. After explaining the educational learning on multiple levels, everyone was more than excited to be involved! Shari also lends her vocals on some tracks and I too on trumpet!
BM: You say you got in touch with your friends to help out so name some names! How did it work given this was happening during the pandemic?
Shari: As Doug mentioned previously, we were able to get the best of the best involved (actually so many people joined in that Vol. II is in the works). On our tracks you’ll hear Tommy Castro*, Laura Chavez, Vanessa Collier, Shemekia Copeland*, Ray Greene (Carlos Santana, Tower of Power), Big Lou Johnson, Leon Spradley, Duke Robillard, Curtis Salgado*, Chris Vachon, Jimmy Vivino, Victor Wainwright, and more! As well as Doug and me. Of course! (*courtesy of Alligator Records)
As awful as this pandemic was and is it allowed us to get a hold of these amazing musicians because most of us were not allowed to work for quite some time. All these musicians had a home studio or means to record. We couldn’t be more excited by the enormous support we received by everyone! And also with our kids: from Doug’s son who was our main focus group, to my friends’ kids, and Doug’s nephews. If the kids (or parents) had an iPhone, then they could record!
BM: Who is the record and book aimed at? Tell us more about the content, characters and lessons.
Our record and sing-along book are targeted to multiple groups actually. Our primary target is Pre-Kindergarten / nursery school to 1st grade / P1) as well as their parents (who we truly believe will love this music and book). Also to blues lovers and fans and also children and adults with learning disabilities. And if you want to learn English, this is great for that too! It’s great for everyone!
The book and music together can help with literacy, spelling, memorisation, among the other teachings like the days of the week and months of the year, directions (North, South, East, and West), counting, shapes, manners, eating healthy, the seasons, ABC’s, using your imagination, a blues history story, and don’t forget our Bonus track, P-ewe!
We have developed a cast of characters in Lightning’s Lessons! From “Little Lightning” our host to The Big Blue Tractor, Ms. Earthie, Freddie the Frog, Go-Go the Guinea pig, Peter Polite Piggie, P-ewe, Ramsey & The Ewe-ettes, and The Veggies.
BM: How do you envisage Lightning’s Lessons being used?
Lightning’s Lessons can be utilised in so many ways. Bring Lightning’s Lessons in the car for your road trip (whether it’s the CD or your digital download), at home the music & sing-along book for family time. Lightning’s Lessons is perfect in the classroom too as teachers can use it to assist with spelling, literacy, memorisation, and have group participation activities!
BM: It sounds like a fantastic idea and Shari and Doug have done a great job. You can hear ABC’neeze! featuring Curtis Salgado on Youtube and details of how to find out more are right below.
To PURCHASE Lightning’s Lessons Vol. 1 featuring Blues All-Stars: visit the website www.LightningsLessons.com or any online retailer. Lightning’s Lessons is available on CD and as a digital download, paperback, download, and downloadable versions of the book for iPad/Kindle.
Shari Puorto’s music, can be heard and purchased at, www.BluesRockMusic.com. New album in summer of 2022!
Doug Woolverton is currently in the studio and about to release his first solo record, so stay tuned!