Not since Billie Holiday has there been a vocalist who so completely transforms a song into her own. On It's Like This, eclectic folkie Rickie Lee Jones envelops standards, showtunes, '70s soul, and even slick jazz-rock, interpreting them with her familiar childlike, breathy shouts. In a very similar vein as 1991's Pop Pop, Jones pulls together a collection of diverse songs from throughout the 20th century and gives them a sparse, fragile spin, kind of like Diana Krall and Björk sharing coffee at an all-night diner.
Produced by Bruce Brody (who has also worked with Maria McKee and Bette Midler), this album is really a showcase for the dynamic vocalist -- her voice pitching and yawing like a sloop far out at sea. Several notable artists scatter themselves unobtrusively throughout the album like Joe Jackson, Ben Folds, John Pizzarelli, and Taj Mahal; each lend a subtle bassline or harmony vocal, cautiously not stepping on any of Jones' delicate lines.
Her passionate, earthy version of Marvin Gaye's "blaxploitation" hit "Trouble Man" is as soulful as her cover of the Beatles' "For No One" is pleading, each reaching out to the listener like a whisper from an inch away. Jones' unmistakable style is unlike anyone else's, and that fact alone will turn away some potential listeners; however, for fans of gentle jazz-pop, It's Like This is an intimate, dreamy wander through the songbooks of the last century.