The power of Smith’s writing stems from the level of detail she includes in her songs. While she may not format her songs like traditional country songs, she sure does write like a classic country songwriter. Take one of the most classic of classic country songs: “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Writers Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam crafted a brilliant story song, filled to the brim with specific details about their relationship. Jones sings, “Kept some letters by his bed dated nineteen sixty-two / He had underlined in red every single "I love you.” In Smith’s “Do You Think About Me,” Smith sings, “Every time that I order my coffee black / your memory keeps coming back / in a double tall Breve latte / two pumps classic.”
While Smith may not be at the level of George Jones yet, she writes in the way that made his songs so timeless and compelling. She writes details, and that specificity creates a truly memorable listening experience.
Adding onto that, Smith has one of the most unique and powerful voices in country music. She sings with a little bit of soul, a little bit of jazz, and a slight bit of twang, and her sense of timing and power is incredible. She knows just when to tone down her vocals, like she does in the strikingly stripped “This Town Is Killing Me.” She knows when to let it all loose, like on the soulful track she recently performed on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, “Contact High.”
Great songwriters that are not necessarily the most powerful singers are present in country music, notably Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. Great vocalists that aren’t really known for their songwriting take shape in artists like Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire. But artists that have both an incredible voice and an intelligent, unmistakable craft for writing songs are not easy to find. Caitlyn Smith is one of those rarities, a true double threat who also has a killer stage presence and knack for performing. Starfire is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of album, and Smith is a one-in-a-million artist.
Best tracks: “Do You Think About Me,” “Tacoma,” “Contact High”
Throwaway tracks: none
Overall rating: 5 crowns