The success of Martina McBride's smash single "Where Would You Be" brought the Nash Vegas music-making machinery back to the door of its writer, Rachel Proctor. Proctor had been slogging it out on the fringes of Music City for close to a decade and had been rejected by nearly everyone, before McBride's hit brought the focus back to the singer/songwriter. Where I Belong is her debut offering, and was produced by Chris Lindsey. There are 11 songs here, six of which were co-written by Proctor. The set is a jaunty blend of modern country styles, delivered by a fine singer who can handle anything they put in front of her. But it's in her own songs, loaded at the front and back of the disc, that the real magic happens. The opener, "Days Like This," with its ringing 12-string guitars and punched-up drums, could have been way overblown if it weren't for the rootsy, no-nonsense romantic exuberance in her vocal. When she sings "Ain't nothin' better than a long lingering kiss...," the listener can feel there is experience and optimism in her words. The shift in focus on "Me and Emily," which shares an intro with Marc Cohn's "Walkin' in Memphis," showcases Proctor's mettle as a lyricist. In this tough-as-nails tale of a single mom who is rambling -- on the move away from a dead-end life with an abusive husband -- with her young daughter sleeping in the back seat, the conviction in the grain of her voice brings to bear all the weight placed on the protagonists' decision. It's tough, believable, and full of brittle truth and that glimmer of hope that makes country songs of any stripe special. The honky tonky revenge of "I'm Gonna Get You Back" is predictable, but also believable. The shimmering guitars and whip-crack snare on "We Did It Our Way" signals the beginning of a midtempo ballad that erupts into a country-rock anthem. In sum, this is a very respectable debut by an artist who arrives fully formed, strong, confident, and committed -- in other words, in it for the long haul. Since she's already borne the brunt of Nash Vegas' polite yet creepy inhumane rejection and never surrendered, Where I Belong is her time to begin smelling the roses. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek