If it wasn't already apparent on his previous Ruf releases, 'Where I Belong' gives further evidence that Ian Parker is a primal song writer who is not afraid to use highly personal source material to give full expression to his music.
Ian sets out his stall lyrically on the opening title track which is the perfect calling card for an album that contains a fair amount of soul searching and lovers laments. The eleven songs are peppered with occasionally guitar outings, plenty of soulful grooves and topped by his unique brand of UK white boy soul singing.
For 'Where I Belong' is another impressive step along the way for a fast growing mature singer song-writer and his fine band who is not afraid to come up with some deep personal songs that mix elements of angst, longing, reflection and personal exploration. But don't let that put you off as there is plenty of excellent material here from the horn led, soulful Stax style meets Robert Cray feel of 'Your Love Is My Home' which has real radio potential, and a similarly soulful performance on 'Waste My Days', complete with a challenging chord change.
Ian also pays close attention to cute production values on the riff driven 'Until You Show Me ' on which he juxtaposes some low register, close to the mike verse with a punched out chorus and fiery guitar solo. The band does him proud on this outing with the rhythm section punctuating his every nuance.
The following 'Sweet Singing Sirens' is the kind of riff driven outing that suggests further potential radio exposure, but not in the traditional blues shows that we might once have once imagined. There is a climactic blues outing in the shape of 'Love So Cold' – arguably his best ever blues song - but this is an album that should be marketed at Robert Cray/ Ben Harper fans.
Quite simply 'Where I Belong' is the kind of album that will appeal to people who like their songwriters to reflect the moods and situations that they can relate to.
Not everything works all the time however, with the 'kitchen sink and all' approach of 'Coming Home' with its muted trumpet intro, it's underlying Tex-Mex feel and soul fragments being topped by a guitar solo that sounds like an after thought. The song simply doesn't generate the kind of tension to warrant the climactic solo.
That said, you can feel what he is striving for but for once it doesn't work. Surprisingly the lyrics are notable by their absence on the CD cover and at the last time of looking were not as suggested on the artist's web site, which seems curious given the core role of words in Ian's music.
But those minor blips aside, this is a slow burner that given plenty of promotion and active band touring will deservedly widen the appeal of one of most thoughtful writers and passionate performers of our time.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Ian Parker's web site is being revamped and updated for his February UK tour and will include the album's lyrics. www.ianparkermusic.com