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Inara George is no paper doll

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Sometimes I wish I’d been born a bit earlier, so that I could have appreciated singers like Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones in their prime. Luckily, the age of the talented chanteuse is not behind us. From Neko Case to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, women are still ready to prove that they have more to offer than Britney and Christina’s bubble gum pop. With Alicia Keys’ Grammy domination, it might be time for the little girls to step aside and let the women have a chance in the spotlight.

New to the scene is singer Inara George with her debut album, “All Rise.” Her quintessential coffee house folk-pop takes me back to sipping beers in Los Angeles’ acoustic hot spots Genghis Cohen and Highland Grounds and checking out whoever happened to be strumming up front. George quite simply has a gorgeous, sweet voice that’s a perfect vehicle for a sad tune. She does add some electronics here and there, but they never overpower her wistful tones.

George is the daughter of Little Feat guitarist and singer Lowell George, who died of a heart attack when she was just five years old. Growing up in Topanga Canyon, George was surrounded by music, and friend Jackson Browne even plays on the album. George makes the very wise move of teaming up with a group of talented veterans. Michael Andrews, best known for the trippy “Donnie Darko” soundtrack produced the album. Cake drummer, Pete McNeal lends a hand, as does keyboardist Greg Kurstin, who’s played with Beck and Ben Harper.

But regardless of the talent she's wrangled, George takes the spotlight. In “Fool’s Work” she sings, “Listen awhile, and I will sing to you / Pull apart my body and you’ll see / My heart is beating / And I am free,” which expresses her singing style perfectly, with her emotions right up front. Speaking of “Fools,” she also has a rather amazing cover of Joe Jackson’s “Fools In Love” — just the fact that she digs the underrated Jackson wins her even more points with me.

George also isn’t afraid to express her more poppy leanings, the best of the lot being “Turn On/Off.” “Punch me hard now / And turn me on,” she sings. “You are too soft / you turn me off.” It may sound a bit masochistic, but the song really speaks to her need to not be perceived as overly delicate. In the same song she sings, “I don’t want to be one more paper doll / That’s blown / All through town / Like this.” I love the fact that she’s working against the assumption that women with slight feminine voices are timid little flowers you can just mow over. As someone who’s physically slight, I can definitely relate.

This seems like just the beginning for Inara George. She doesn’t have a national tour lined up yet, but if you want to hear a great live performance, check her out on Morning Becomes Eclectic, a great indie music show from KCRW in Los Angeles. Here’s hoping she comes to a city near you — and near me — soon.

For more info on Inara George, visit: