That day lives buried in her bones. “I live off the earth,” Inara George warbles quite serenely, in between crinkles of paper on “Crazy,” excavating the day her father, Lowell George, founding member and frontman of Little Feat, died ⎯⎯ for one last glance, a final adieu before settling into the middle years of her own life. “It definitely wasn’t something I’d write a record about,” she spoke sharply, a resolve which has only just thawed in recent years. Dearest Everybody (out now) is her first solo record since 2009, an intimately-hewn, lovingly-scrawled farewell letter to her father, whose story remains “sweetly intertwined with mine and yours and mine,” she parses on “Everybody,” its delicate edges twisted and broken against the swell of guitar. “I’ll just keep living and dying and living,” she holds steadfast, not in mourning but wiping the cracked tears away and looking up into the the wide, pool-like eyes of her three hopeful children.
George’s revelations are as indebted to her father as they are intrinsically hers, woven into back-boned heritage, woeful, patient maturity and arising out of inevitable tragedy. “I will always love you / But never will I forgive you for being gone so long,” George also knits, beautifully chronicling her mother’s recovery from the crippling loss in “Release Me,” an arresting but subtle vocal performance. “I spend my life in the shadow of a man,” she later whispers to herself, acknowledging his memory’s ghost haunting her troubled, tired dreams. In turn, her own mortality comes into clearer focus. “It was the blackest night I’d I’ve ever seen / Are we alone? Are we shadows? Are we the stars that hit the ground?,” she analyzes, dissecting the spiritual and emotional consequences of that fateful, overcast morning in 1979, through the luminescence of “Stars.”
Mike Andrews, who helmed all three previous solo records, including George’s 2005 debut, All Rise, returns to slather on lush, earth-wound arrangements. “Somewhere New” trots merrily along, paired with refreshing lyrical drollery ⎯⎯ “a pair of underwear in my pocket,” she smirks, before skipping off to her next adventure ⎯⎯ and “Slow Dance” rolls at a brisker pace than the title allows, sketching her bitter-sweet past with tomorrow’s promise, all in the context of her 40th birthday. She relinquishes control to the arrangements and grants the words to flow instinctively from her lips. They are often playful but always insightful and bearing the weight and sorrow of the world. “All for All” (inspired by an undisclosed anecdote Andrews confided to George about his father in his last days) unwinds like a music box, a dazzling centerpiece, which forever turns in her fingertips; the piano scurries to and fro, gleefully. “You’re all I need,” she later chirps. Drawing upon her contributions in The Bird and the Bee (alongside producer Greg Kurstin, known for working with Adele and Kelly Clarkson) and The Living Sisters (with Eleni Mandell and Becky Stark), George is ruthless in delivering pounding emotional blows at every turn.
With “A Bridge,” constructed on only icy vocal layering, she sends up a prayer: “I wanna see you everyday / I wanna hear my children say your name,” she pines. But her pleas center on wanting “more time,” as she repeats early on, a sparse, melancholic ritual rooted in the past’s savagery, which is strung along by the day, by the minute, the second. “House on Valentine” weighs much heavier upon multiple listens, the horn section lightening in shades, and collects observations about the past, how all our misfortunes and heartaches instill within us the courage to keep going and the time when we surely get that return. “In some strange way, these are the best of times / It reminds us of who we’re supposed to be,” she regards, pedaling piano and rhapsodic brass ebbing and flowing.
Three years in the making, Dearest Everybody culls together decades-worth of experiences, as George processes her father’s death, handles relationships with her mother and three children, and soothes her own inner discord. “My laugh, my sighs, the parts that I have played / The space that I have made, it doesn’t go away,” she renders beneath the muted luster of “Everybody,” bookending the final act with somber acceptance. She’s borne her heart, and we are left to make sense of it all…
Grade: 4 out of 5
Photo Credit: Alexa Nikol Curran