While Orianthi’s signing to Woodward Avenue Records is a genre-busting coup for the Indie Label best known for urban jazz greats like Paul Brown, Jeff Ryan and Ray Fuller, it’s also an incredible creative opportunity for the multi-faceted mega-popular singer/songwriter and electric guitarist. While her solo career has often taken a back seat to her storied associations with the legendary likes of Michael Jackson (who hired her for his This Is It shows prior to his untimely passing), Alice Cooper, Dave Stewart and Richie Sambora, most labels she’s been on have wanted to capitalize only on her talents as a rock shredder. The upcoming singles (and ultimately the full album) she’s working on for Woodward Avenue will definitely showcase her electrifying guitarisma, but in the context of songs that mark an inspiring return to Orianthi’s first stylistic love – a more organic, 60’s-70’s rock blues vibe.

While the two-fisted, high wattage star power of Orianthi and her good friend, three-time Grammy nominated blues-rock great Joe Bonamassa are definite selling points for her first lead single “First Time Blues,” she balances the highly anticipated fireworks brilliantly with her depth as a musical storyteller. While the track starts with a blazing riff offering a full blast of crackling energy (coupling with the simmering bluesy keyboards of Carey Frank), once she starts singing, we’re seduced into the deeper dimensions of her multi-faceted artistry. A powerful, emotional singer, she draws us into the heartbreak of “Full Time Blues” by painting a scenario where “I remember the pain/The coldest dark dark nights.” Over the persistent mid-tempo groove of bassist Justin Andres and drummer Elias Mallin, she builds the painful drama by inviting us into her vulnerable state where “I drank too much/Ran away from myself/When I saw him kissing somebody else.”

We’ve all been there, experiencing the shattering pieces of our heart as our dreams are dashed in an instant. But it’s infinitely worse when it’s literally, in Orianthi’s experience shared in the hook, “That was the first time. The first time I got the blues.” For the chorus, even as the electric guitar fire surrounds her for emphasis, the focus is still on her plaintive lament. In the second verse, continuing to build a relatable narrative, she’s on the run (literally and within herself), a “lone wolf on battle grounds.” Then she meets and falls hard for another guy, but she’s sure – because this is a blues song – that “Love’s a game I’m sure to lose.” Because even on the rebound, the fiery chorus swells again, “That felt like the first time I had the blues.”

We can imagine if the song kept going on, she’d make the same mistake over and over. Yet rather than sing out her frustrations, she turns all her inner turmoil over to her axe, playing one of her extended trademark otherworldly solos. When she hits those exquisite crying high notes, we know it’s more than just showing off her crazy chops. It’s expressing the enduring pain of losing at love that she deftly introduced earlier. After another romp through the hook, she turns the reins over to Bonamassa, who brings his own unique heartfelt furious fire to an equally blistering solo that is the musical equivalent of a close friend expressing empathy for and crying along with her unlucky in love plight.

Orianthi has described “First Time Blues” as “that first time you feel the pain of something different happening to you. You have a childlike love of life and don’t want to lose that innocence, but life can try to take it away from you, so it’s important to hold onto that. It’s a song that can take you back to being excited to wake up and feel grateful and excited about where you are. It doesn’t’ change throughout life if you really have the strength to love and be all-in every time. I’m guilty of that – throwing myself into the fire just to get burned, heal and then get burned again, or not, you never know. Love’s a gamble!”

While Orianthi produced the track, she brought in some other big guns to help take it to transcendent levels – a crew including electric and acoustic guitarist Nick Maybury, engineers Justin Andres, Marco Moir and Alistair James, assistant engineer Riley Wallace and superstar mixer Kevin Shirley, who has worked his behind the boards magic for Bonamassa, Journey, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and countless others.
Orianthi wrote the song a while ago, but felt this was the perfect time to record it because she’s been playing it live with her band for the past year. And speaking of classic rock and roll big guns, she cut it live at Robbie Krieger’s studio, Love Street Sound. “The studio has such a wonderful vibe. I only did a few takes and we got it down. I’m grateful to Joe for coming in and putting down his magic, his fire leads, on the second solo section. We have jammed many times in the past. Hope you all dig this tune. We all had a great time recording it!”

Thematically, it’s not the most upbeat cheery love song you’ll ever hear, but guaranteed, with the way Orianthi, Bonamassa and company present it, you will never be so happy to hear the sorrow of those first-time blues in your life! – Jonathan Widran


20 februari 2024
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