June 14, Starfire by Caitlyn Smith
Genre: Kind of a folksy country with a ’70s bluesy rock vibe.
Total tracks: 12
Songs you might know:
– “This Town is Killing Me”
– “Drumming Song”
– “Cosmic Love”
– “You’ve Got the Love”
*This song appeared on Garth Brooks’ 2014 album, Man Against Machine. Smith wrote it, and includes her own version here.
My prior relationship with this album: One of the main reasons I’ve been in and out of a “country phase” as long as I have been is because I discovered Grady Smith, a dude with good taste who listens to country music (and whatever else he wants to) and is gracious enough to share his findings with the internet. I’ve learned about several fantastic artists/albums that are not the overly commercial bullshit that has become all too common in the genre. One of these artists is Caitlyn Smith. (Please note that henceforth, “Smith” refers to Caitlyn, not Grady, as delightful as he is).
While I had NOT heard of Caitlyn Smith, it turns out that she’s written stuff I HAVE heard, most notably “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend. And after listening to Starfire, I can’t help but think of that song and think, “yup, makes sense.” It would’ve fit right in with the rest of these tracks!
My impressions this time around: This is one of those albums where I really don’t find myself ever craving any one song in particular, but I’ve really grown to love the album in general. That’s not to say I don’t have my favorites. “St. Paul” is probably the one most likely to get stuck in my head, but I also love the energy of “Contact High,” the raw emotion of “This Town is Killing Me,” and the downright cuteness of “Cheap Date.”
The real accomplishment of Starfire is that I never feel like I’m waiting for a song I like better than the one that is currently playing. Each tells its own unique story and brings its own unique mood to the album and that allows me to stay in the moment and appreciate each song as it plays. Despite me not really having one song that instantly stood out as “my jam” I found myself returning to Starfire over and over again.
Smith has such consistency as she bounces between Adele-like sad ballads like “East Side Restaurant” or “Tacoma” to Janis Jopplin-esque bluesy rock songs like “Before You Called Me Baby” or “Contact High” to the sad, yet calming and peaceful “Scenes from a Corner Booth at Closing Time on a Tuesday.” Regardless of the different vibes she plays around with, I never feel like Smith is out of her comfort zone. The result is an album that not only holds my attention for its entire 46 minute runtime, but lets me relish in each minute as it passes.
Frankly, someone who writes as well as Smith could probably get away with relatively mediocre, generic vocals but I’m pleased to report this isn’t the case. What I especially love about the vocals here is that Smith has an incredibly powerful voice while simultaneously recognizing that she’s better off NOT overdoing it. She really knows how to be quiet and delicate or loud and powerful depending on what that particular song calls for in that particular moment. The best example of this is probably on “Tacoma” which starts quiet, but towards the end, the other instruments drop out and Smith just goes for it on this huge note and nails it.
Who would enjoy it? I feel like people who are into that sort of ’60s-’70s bluesy folk rock would be all about this. As mentioned before, there’s some serious Joplin vibes on certain tracks, and anyone who can get behind Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” could probably get behind the acoustic ballads here.