By Holly Smith
On this latest record, the six new songs come from Caitlyn’s desire to keep it real - an approach that pays off.
1. High - Intro
3. Dreamin’s Free
6. Good as Us
8. Maybe in Another Life
9. I Think of You
10. Nothing Against You
11. Downtown Baby
12. Writing Songs and Raising Babies
13. I Don’t Like the World Without You
14. The Great Pretender
Gone are the days of one or two carefully chosen lead singles per album, selected for their presumed ability to hit a sweet spot with both existing and prospective fans. These days cherry-picking is a less delicate art, and more of an exercise in shaking the tree as hard as you can. It’s easy to see the temptation – whilst songs hit the ground at an alarming rate, the streamers provide an abundance of immediately available data about which have exploded and which simply roll into the grass.
So it is that we come to High & Low, the new 14-track album from prolific singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith containing a mammoth 11 songs that have already been released. In fact, eight of them have already formed their own album, 2022’s High.
On this latest record, the six new songs come from Caitlyn’s desire to keep it real - an approach that pays off. The beautiful 'Mississippi', with its subtle bluegrass backdrop, double bluffs us by seemingly employing Smith’s established use of place as a backdrop for romance gone awry, as showcased on 2017’s 'Tacoma' (a true cherry-pick). Except here 'Mississippi' really is about a place, the river that runs through the twin cities where she grew up, and how she longs for it.
From one place to another, on 'Alaska' Smith mourns a lover whose heart is somewhere else. “When you look at me / Boy, you might as well be in Alaska”, she sings, letting her voice roar on that title, because it’s not a Caitlyn Smith record without one huge belt. On 'I Think of You', delicate strings lay bare the loneliness and inescapability of love lost.
There’s always been a Baroque lushness about Caitlyn’s voice and on 'Lately' she leans into it quite literally, with reference to Beethoven sonatas and Dostoevsky. 'Writing Songs' and Raisin' Babies', with its church keys, is a welcome addition and a perfect showcase for the High & Low at the centre of everything, telling us that “some days it’s a circus, it’s an all out shit show, beautiful chaos but I wouldn’t have it any other way”.
She’s brutally honest with herself on 'The Great Pretender', which stays true to the core of The Platters’ 1955 song of the same name, singing “this dress fits me perfect but I wish I was thinner / The stories I’m telling don’t tell the whole truth / The smile isn’t real but it looks good in pictures / Give me an Oscar for fooling the room”.
“Nobody can have the highs without the lows”, Caitlyn has said of this record. The quality of the original album shows that actually you can, but taken together, the bitterness of the lows only enriches the sweetness of the highs, much like a cherry picked straight from the tree.
High & Low is out on Friday 14th April via Monument Records. For more on Caitlyn Smith, see below: