Prior to releasing her major-label debut, Starfire, in early 2018, Caitlyn Smith built up an impressive résumé as a professional songwriter, penning hits for Cassadee Pope ("Wasting All These Tears") and Meghan Trainor & John Legend ("Like I'm Gonna Lose You"). Those two examples suggest the Nashville-based songwriter isn't strictly country, yet Smith is rooted in country, as evidenced by her songs being cut by Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and Lady Antebellum. Still, Starfire doesn't precisely feel like a country album, existing somewhere between the melodramatic country-pop of Carrie Underwood, the soft sway of Lady Antebellum, and the refined mainstream pop of Sheryl Crow. Starfire might be a little hard to peg, but that's also its charm: it's the rare kind of singer/songwriter album where the exquisitely sculpted songs are given big, lavish arrangements that swing for the fences. As a singer, Smith is more than capable of navigating these sweeping strings, but she also feels equally at home in more intimate settings such as the album centerpiece "This Town Is Killing Me" and the throwback "Tacoma." If it's hard to place what format is best suited for Starfire, it's also true that it's refreshing to hear a singer/songwriter album with a bold personality that by no means sounds like a demo tape. These are fully realized versions of Smith's repertoire, and if Starfire doesn't click commercially, at least it stands as a testament to all that this fine songwriter can do as a performer.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine