Caitlyn Smith Starfire
Caitlyn Smith first popped on our radar when doing some investigations into who had written some of the songs on Series 1 of Nashville where she had a hand in writing "Hypnotizing", performed by Hayden Panettiere in the show. This lead to her rather wonderful acoustic EP that immediately marked her out as an artist to watch out for and that early promise has been well and truly delivered on with a spectacular new album "Starfire", with a batch of immediately attention grabbing tunes. Her songwriting credits are enormous but for the future it looks like we'll be seeing much more of her as a performer.
From the opening stark guitar riff of "Before You Called Me Baby" the album delivers on all fronts. . The song does eventually open out into a full band number as it contrasts life now as opposed to before meeting your true love. Caitlyn is as adept at the quiet moments as she is belting out the vocals in the final chorus. The chorus becomes a sweeping full band crescendo which Caitlyn's voice soars above in superb style.
The song seamlessly segues into "Do You Think About Me" where Caitlyn reflects upon a relationship from the other end, once the couple has split up, and that nagging thought about whether the other person has moved on or not still lingers. In this song Caitlyn clearly hasn't, as heard in the delivery of the lines "I think about you all damned night, all damned day" and then the reciprocal question "Do you think about me?".
The title track opens with a drum beat and choppy guitar and once again finds Caitlyn on great vocal form You ain't ever ever gonna burn me out" she asserts completing as blistering a start to an album as you could hope. It defines her as an individual "I won't ever be perfection, ever be your golden child" that wont be changed.
The mood then heads in a completely different direction, "East Side Restaurant" by contrast is almost jazzy with strings and once again is an extraordinary vocal performance that needs to be heard to be believed. It could easily come from a film soundtrack, it has a huge feel about it.
"Don't Give Up On My Love" has a more modern sound and once again the vocals excel - it does eventually build up into a full string backed song. Lyrically it seems deeply personal and noticeably it is the only song solely written by Caitlyn. It is a relationship on a knife edge " You said underneath your breath, That you didn't really know, Didn't really know if this is worth it"
"This Town Is Killing Me" should be compulsory listening for anyone wanting to head to Nashville to seek stardom. - the perils of being an unknown singer in Nashville "I pour my heart out, three minutes at a time On a J-45, but no one's listening They're too busy drinking on the company tab" . It is a stark representation of the emotions many must be feeling as they pay their dues waiting for the big break to come,
- "I Wanted It So bad and now I won't to go home" there is pain etched into every line but it comes with the realisation that she won't leave, she'll get back up and do it all over again. Nothing more puts things in perspective of how the desire to succeed eats at you quite like "They buried my grandad without me Cause I was out on the road at some one off show In Tubalo!".
"St Paul" is a fairly autobiographical look back at how things began when she was just 17 "playing sad folk songs on a cheap guitar" It starts almost folky, like a Paul Simon song before it opens up into another attention grabbing chorus.
"Tacoma" is another huge cinematic song lavished with strings while at its heart remaining definitely country. In many ways it is a road song as we get name checks for all the towns passed through on the way to Tacoma
"Scenes from a Corner Booth at Closing Time" is set to join the pantheon of classic songs where the singer surveys the scene in a bar like Sheryl' Crow's "All I Wanna Do" or Billy Joel's "Piano Man". As with those songs there are lines of beautifully picked out details like the girl with her "shirt too low, skirt too high Catchin' the eye of every Hefner in the room". The vocals even have a little tipsy feel to them that make you fell you are in a bar as you listen.
"Contact High" is a funky blues tribute to the one that sets her heart racing "I don't need pills or wine when i'm close to you". This shows a completely different style to Caitlyn's vocals, still magnificent but much rootsier.
"House Of Cards" is yet another surprise, deliciously layered in strings addressing inner doubt, "You've got to get better, it's now or it's never" her inner voice says.
The album closes in a relatively low key style with "Cheap Date" a gentle mainly piano driven song about the joys of staying in with the one you love. After the fireworks of some of the earlier songs it may seem a little subdued but actually it's the perfect album closer putting the record to bed so to speak.
An exceptional collection of songs, a multitude of styles, absolutely no fillers, even at this early stage - a definite contender for album of the year!