- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

Inara George

All Rise

Everloving Records

There’s no doubt last names help in this business (as in any other), and Inara George’s has been worth a foot in the door more than once. But let’s not get snippy about rock nepotism; even the children of the famous or once-famous eventually must deliver the goods.

Miss George, daughter of the late Little Feat master Lowell George, has them — namely, an attention-grabbing voice and a writerly gift.

Truth be told, Miss George didn’t have much time to soak up the direct influence of her father. He died when she was just 5.

Thus, her work with bands such as Lode and Merrick and her solo debut, “All Rise” — a collaboration with “Donnie Darko” soundtrack composer Michael Andrews — are blissfully free of the weight of familial influence.

“All Rise,” an ambient, Nick Drake-like mood piece with gentle percussion and tasteful electronic touches, is built entirely around Miss George’s voice: a breathy, free-floating mezzo-soprano that moves in unpredictable intervals and quaverings, much like Bjork’s or Aimee Mann’s.

Her melodies are angular, playful and unhurried; her lyrics are bony and economical. Here’s her sum-up of an illicit affair, as told in the opener “Mistress”: “It fights and it lies and it sighs and it sighs and it sighs.” Just right, and not a word wasted, especially not those extra “sighs.”

Her advice to what sounds like a piece of eye candy with little to recommend upstairs: “If I was you, I wouldn’t talk; I’d just keep dancing” (“No Poem”). As they say in rap battles, “Snap!”

The ocular sense as metaphor for unconditional love: “Your eyes, they’re good to me/They can see what my mother sees” (“Good to Me”). Perfect.

Mr. Andrews, double-tasking as producer, plays a host of guitars, mostly acoustic and mournful, but sneaks in a smudge of grit on the peppy, McCartneyesque rockers “Genius” and “Turn On/Off.” (The reference for both seems to be “Getting Better” off “Sgt. Pepper.”)

Keyboardist Greg Kurstin (Beck, Ben Harper) adds a swirl of Fender Rhodes piano, vibes and spooky synthesizers .

“All Rise’s” strength — uniformity — is also its weakness. It tends to sound the same even after repeated listens. Singular moments of note are hard to disentangle from the whole.

The album, however, clearly is meant for a long drive rather than an in-and-out stop at the Quickie Mart. Its rewards are tucked away for the patient, as on “Fools in Love,” a seemingly downcast waltz about the pathetic irrationality of the heartstrings.

In the end comes Miss George’s twist: “I should know, because this fool’s in love.”

Again, perfect.

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