george inai
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george inai

Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"Demo Critique"

Hi-concept Denver artist has an act that could appeal to alt-country fans with a David Lynch ear. Inai melds country-western twang with occasional exotic touches in a way that must be surreal when experienced live. “Lonesome Highway� channels classic country popster Marty Robbins; the tune’s mariachi trumpet helps conjure the ghosts of Mexican border myths and legends. While the CD’s musicianship is stellar, Inai’s vocal abilities just do manage to pull this conceit off. An intriguing curiosity. - Music Connection, Vol. XXXI, No. 16, 07/30/07-08/12/07

"George Inai Brings New Western Roots to Swallow Hill"

By Laura “Spunky� McGaughey

When asked how he’d describe his flavor of music, George Inai says simply: “New Western.� Despite the brevity off his answer, there is much more going on. Born and raised in Colorado as a fourth-generation Japanese American, Inai grew up in a diverse community in northeast Denver and attended Manual High School. As a young man, he left for California with a Chicano heavy Metal band, graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology, and played with an African-American Funk/Soul band in Oakland. Now back in his hometown, Inai has released his own solo album This Foolish Music. Collaborating with GRAMMY award-winning engineer and producer John Macy, he’s managed to stir up a cauldron of sounds: Roots, Americana, TexMex, and more. Underlying all of them is the feeling that Inai’s roots have influenced his art. The writing and tone of his voice definitely hearkens to his Japanese roots, taking me back to springtime festivals in Kyoto. Inai describes his lyrical style as trying to capture the Japanese aesthetic, the “appreciation for things that are humble and not so spectacular.� There are definitely some East-meets-West flavors here. Inai will perform with singer/songwriter Marcy Baruch at the Swallow Hill Café on Thursday, July 19th at 7:30 PM. “It’s been great to see how Swallow Hill has grown,� he says, reminiscing about his earlier years at open stage nights there. “I’m glad to perform at a place with such a great tradition of hosting unique artists… it’s exciting to become part of that network. - Colorado Music Buzz, July 2007, Vol. 2 Issue 2

"George Inai - This Foolish Music"

By Kim Allen

George Inai is a modest guy. He would have us all believe that his debut CD, This Foolish Music, was just a happy accident. About a year ago, he casually mentioned that he was working on a CD. I assumed that it would be some low-budget, amateurish, self-produced tracks of a wannabe musician and his acoustic guitar.

What arrived in my mailbox last month was a very slick package containing Inai’s brilliant and beyond eclectic sounds. The cover art (by local Greg Carr) hints to the soulful journey ahead for the listener. An artist’s rendering of Inai done in the vein of Mexican magical realism. Open the case and find a popup of some Dia de los Muertos-looking souls grooving with George.

The sounds on this CD are like none you have ever experienced. Is this a new Western take by a local hipster? What about those mariachi horns and accordion? And how did he recruit such an accomplished group of musicians to produce this very polished piece of coolness?

Inai and I got together for coffee so he could explain his inspirations which evolved into This Foolish Music.

Inai was born in Denver to Japanese-American parents and raised in Park Hill. As involved parents do, Robert and Lilian Inai insisted on piano and art lessons for their son. His background in the visual arts helps him to create his music as “thinking of it in pictures�. He said a trip to the dentist with his son inspired him to write “Anesthesia�. Inai thought the word was just so weird and interesting that he constructed as song around it. Get this catch melody stuck in your hear and going to the dentist will never be the same.

When he was of age, Inai chose the electric guitar over the piano. He says he was attracted to the starkness of the instrument. Starkness is a common theme in his songs, as he likens them to the vastness of “highway songs�. This is evident in who sys are his influence which include Johnny Cash, as well as Los Lobos and The Mavericks.

Inai also credits exposure to traditional Japanese music for helping to create a framework for his music. Having had a Japanese grandmother who played some not so catchy Japanese tunes for my cultural enlightenment, I couldn’t make the connection between the monotonous shamisen-plunking and his esoteric tapestry of CW-blues-mariachi, etc… He explained that he believes that the Japanese are master architects at taking from other cultures and to create styles uniquely their own.

Lest you think he’s some New-Ager dabbling in world music, Inai says he was inspired to play music when he heard “Back in Black� by AC/DC. He attended Manuel High School (in the 80’s) where he listened and played hip hop, jazz, and heavy metal. Inai moved to California with a heavy metal Mexican-American band, and graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology, while studying music at the University of Southern California. He also spent time playing with an African-American funk/soul band in Oakland before returning to Denver.

And the layer of mariachi that tinges his music? Inai’s Mexican-American wife, Zulema, was born in Mexico to a family of migrant farm-workers. She introduced him to music from her grandfather’s record collection and he seamlessly laces his songs with the haunting mariachi trumpet and accordion. Inai says he has a fondness for the “forlorn sound of Mexican mariachi�.

In his charming low-key style, Inai claims it was merely serendipity that brought his talented band together. John Macy, the Grammy Award-winning legend of the pedal steel guitar (Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) engineered his CD. Macy also recruited the many local talents who collaborated on This Foolish Music: Christian Teele, Chris Engelman, Eric Moon, Dave Shapiro, Dereck Banach, Reck Benjamin-Tebelau, Mark Oblinger and Marcy Baruch.

Check out George Inai’s website to get on the email list for notification of upcoming shows and treat yourself to a copy of his CD. This Foolish Music is currently available locally at Twist & Shout and online at
- North Denver Tribune, 73rd Year, 9th Issue, May 3, 2007-May 16, 2007

"George Inai - This Foolish Music"

By Michael Roberts

George Inai's latest boasts the most creative design of any local release in recent memory: a modified digipack with folk-art graphics from which the disc rises, pop-up style, when opened. The music inside would have to be mighty good to measure up, and it comes awfully close. This Foolish Music, the focus of a Thursday, April 5, CD-release party at the Walnut Room co-starring the Perry Weissman 3 and Roger Green, combines American sounds and themes in a smart, cinematic way.

Like Los Lobos, whose "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" is covered here, Inai loves the mythic quality of homegrown roots music, and thanks to producer John Macy's spacious palette and atmospheric pedal steel, he frequently captures these characteristics in song. "Lonesome Highway," replete with Dereck Banach's spaghetti-Western trumpet, is emblematic of these offerings. And if Inai's vocals occasionally seem a skosh affected, that's a small price to pay for such an interesting package. - Westword - April 5, 2007


This Foolish Music (2007)
Received airplay on KGNU (Boulder, CO) KRFC (Fort Collins, CO) and KTCL (Denver). Performed live in studio at KCUV (Denver) and KRFC.



Singer/Songwriter, George Inai, was born at a cultural crossroads. And, if strong cultural heritage is truly a wellspring for great art, then Inai, could not have a deeper pool from which to draw.

As a fourth generation Japanese-American now married to a naturalized Mexican immigrant, Inai's musical inspirations intersect in an unusual place, and blaze a new frontier in Western American music.

Inai’s early musical influences included traditional Japanese music, oddly mixed with a collection of memorable big band swing albums, from which he now draws inspiration. Later, hip hop, jazz, and heavy metal music played havoc with his style.

Inai moved to California with a heavy metal Mexican-American band, while studying music at the Guitar Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California. He spent time playing with an African-American funk/soul band in Oakland before returning to Denver.

The Mariachi trumpet and accordion evoke the ghosts of Mexico, drawing on stories shared by his wife of her childhood spent along the migrant trail, while the steel guitar draws us just north of the border. His musical stories echo these lives, and do not let ghosts lie.

George Inai collaborated with Grammy Award-winning engineer and producer, John Macy, legend of the steel guitar (Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Gladys Knight, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Richie Furay) to meld bluesy, Western sounds together with elements of Americana on his debut CD, This Foolish Music.