• 1.
    Why Don't You Love Me
  • 2.
    Gotta Leave My Troubles Behind
  • 3.
    Take a Shower!
  • 4.
    Come Over to My Place
  • 5.
    Tuck You in
  • 6.
    Leave My Man Alone
  • 7.
    Why Should I Conquer the World
  • 8.
    Ba Ba Ba
  • 9.
    Trouble Rumble
  • 10.
    Not That Kind of Girl


Songs of a Rag Doll is Miss Li's third album, released only 11 months after her debut. If nothing else, she seems to have become a better pianist during that year, at least judging from the simple but sprightly bit of high-register counterpoint that opens the album. After that, there's very little piano playing in evidence; instead, she's assembled the best and biggest band to grace her records thus far, adding accordion, banjo, and clarinet, among other things, to the usual combo of horns and rhythm players. It's a smart move, particularly in conjunction with the decision to take her brassy cabaret-pop in a continental, gypsy/klezmer-styled direction, which suits her far more than the jazzy lounge and more overtly Broadway-inflected approach of her first albums. Much of the credit surely goes to the instrumentalists, and particularly to arranger/guitarist/banjoist Sonny Boy Gustafsson (with whom Li shares a blanket writing and production credit for the album), but in any case this is easily the most musically satisfying of her efforts to date -- there's even a brief but fiery instrumental showcase, "Trouble Rumble," to seal the deal. And maybe it's just that she finally has the bold and boisterous musical backing to match her hammy, outsized persona, but it does feel like Li has ever so slightly tuned down the campy theatrics, making it a lot easier to stomach -- and even relish -- her still plenty-thick shtick, while luxuriating in her marvelously brassy voice. Her lyrical focus has never deviated much, but it's even more pointed here, from the gleefully blunt come-ons of "Come Over to My Place," "Take a Shower" ("...with me, baby"), and ("All I wanna do is...") "Tuck You In" (how's that for a sequence?) to the earnest romanticism of "Why Should I Conquer the World" and "Ba Ba Ba." In all, it's a marked step up from the admirably ambitious but lackluster amateurism of her first two albums; Miss Li truly sounds like she's come into her own this time, and while it would be quite a stretch to describe her music as tasteful, it is surprisingly tasty. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

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