The band name and cover art are pleasantly misleading. They suggest that this will be more in the Janis Joplinesque mode that singer Lani Ramos initially made her calling card, but that’s an unforgiving measuring stick. Double Faces starts there with “Shake That Junk,” but it quickly moves in less predictable directions. “It Goes Away” has traces of Stevie Nicks at her prime with Fleetwood Mac, while “Wounded Knees” taps into Patti Smith’s serrated, mannered vocal attack. If anyone served as Ramos’ muse on Double Faces, it’s Smith and her dramatic sense of abandon to the moment in music that flirts with the primitive. At times, that leads Ramos out of control instead of to the edge of it, but she’s clearly emotionally committed in every performance.
While it’s great to hear Big Pearl broaden its reach, sometimes the album reveals the band’s influences too easily. “One Last Cigarette” is the album’s high point, the place where her influences are internalized and a part of Ramos’ own art. Big Pearl is clearly a work in progress, but Double Faces is a positive step.