Lani Ramos comes by her “Big Pearl” moniker honestly, having kicked off her local stage career with a perfect recreation of Janis Joplin’s legendary howl.
So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that her first live album is filled with Joplinesque moves, not just the cover of “Raise Your Hand” but very, very extended jams on standards like “John the Revelator” and “Wade in the Water.” Excess and authenticity being Janis’ two watchwords.
The one thing the original, little Pearl didn’t have was funk, however—and a rapper.
The Fugitives can be endearingly sloppy, just like Big Brother, but they always fall into a straight-up NOLA-brand groove, and if you ever wanted to hear Joplin tackle “Hey Pocky Way,” just stop reading and go get the album now.
For his part, MC Blac Sol is competent, but he mostly strengthens the disconnect on his two numbers; there’s probably a musical tree that connects Pearl to hip-hop, but this isn’t it.
The originals are for some reason buried in the back half, and they’re the best thing in the set, especially “Conversation Town” and the closer “Big Brass Bed,” both of which let Lani be Lani and the Fugitives stretch out.
Applying a voice with that much power to the elementals of Crescent City funk could result in a real barnburner, but for now Ramos and her band are something less than that—and also a good bit more than a gimmick.