Various audio, video and photos for Big Pearl

Big Pearl: Double Faces (Independent)

Thursday, March 5, 2012
March 2012 issue
Written by Dean M. Shapiro

Living in New Orleans and enjoying our culinary delicacies from the nearby waters, we know all about oysters. Rough and coarse on the outside, smooth and tasty on the inside. And, every now and then, we might even find one with a pearl in it. That would describe Big Pearl, which is vocalist Lani Ramos and her backup band. Ramos, a self-described “Funk Rock Chick” and die-hard Janis Joplin fan, named the group after Joplin’s “Pearl” nickname and the title of the late blues belter’s posthumous early 1970s album. But the oyster analogy is what really comes to mind here. Backed by a core band consisting of Mike Wheat on guitar, Keiko Komaki on keyboards, Jimbo Walsh on bass and Adam Coolsat on drums, Ramos is a cauldron of raw energy and seismic power as she unleashes her vocals in a rough, no-holds-barred style. Right from the opening track, “Shake That Junk” you know you’re in for a wild ride. Refusing to acknowledge any boundaries of style or limitations of vocal range, she pours out her angst and raw emotions in a frenzy that grips you by the gut and doesn’t let go until the songs are over, which is precisely the intent. She does, however, tone things down for “It Goes Away” which shows a pleasing, mellow side to the vocal style. All but one of the songs are originals composed by Wheat, four of which Ramos collaborated on, and the tech work, most of which was done in Tim Stambaugh’s Word of Mouth Studio in Algiers, is first-rate. Fans of ‘80s and ‘90s hard rock, this CD is for you.

Big Pearl: Double Faces (Independent)

Thursday, December 1, 2011
December 2011 issue
Written by Alex Rawls

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.


Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
May/June 2011 issue
Written by Barry Simms

Breakthru Magazine with Keike Komaki, Dionne Character, Lynn Drury and Lani RamosThat voice you can’t miss from the middle of the street, walking down Frenchman on a Monday night – That’s Lani Ramos at the Blue Nile singing with her band Big Pearl & the Fugitives of Funk.  Make sure you’ve loaded  up with an extra bowl of red beans and rice because you’re going to need all the energy you can muster to keep up with Lani, a self described “funk rock chick,” and her unique New Orleans fusion of rock, funk, blues, soul, jazz, 80’s pop, and even a little hip-hop if you’re lucky.  With her amazing vocal range, dominating stage presence, charismatic storytelling personality, and uncanny physical resemblance – the comparisons to Janis Joplin are inevitable, but to peg her as Janis does not do justice to the breadth of Ramos’s talents and vocal styles.  Although admittedly Joplin has been a major source of inspiration for Lani, her singing also draws upon influences across the musical spectrum including Elvis, Motown, Pat Benetar, Jim Morrison, Led Zepplin, Joan Jett, Heart, and “all that 1950’s American Graffiti type stuff.”  Breakthru Media Magazine recently rocked out with Lani Monday at the Blue Nile as she sang and danced her heart out all over (and off) the stage.  Her vocal diversity was on full display opening with screaming Joplin cover “Raise Your Hand,” going mellow soul with “Wade in the Water,” livening things up with “Chain of Fools,” then putting a new rock spin on Nola jazz standard “Bourbon Street Parade,” all night mixing in originals like “In the N.O.” and “1 Last Cigarette” off her new album Double Faces.

Lani RamosSince she began singing in choirs and talent shows at the age of seven Lani’s journey to the Blue Nile has included Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, India, San Francisco and New Orleans, holding virtually every job in the entertainment industry along the way.   Her desire to be an actress at an early age took her to Los Angeles where she turned a gig in the mailroom at 20th Century Fox into five years of production work in music, TV, and film.  It eventually became clear to everyone that Lani’s booming voice, and larger than life personality could not be contained behind a desk.  She left L.A., traveled to India, and upon returning bought a one-way ticket to the Crescent City, arriving on her birthday in 1999.  “My first week here changed my whole life,” says Ramos, which included an unbelievable chance to meet and sing for Fats Domino, a day that Ramos still draws inspiration from.  Her love for New Orleans hasn’t changed, despite having suffered serious illness from living with black mold and relocating to San Francisco for a short while after Katrina, “The feeling of freedom in New Orleans is amazing, but really I chose to stay here for the people, that real feeling of township, you can’t get that anywhere else.”

In the last 12 years Ramos has paid her dues “and then some,” she smiles through her unforgettable laugh – from karaoke and open mic nights to cover bands and Janis Joplin tributes, down Decatur, Bourbon, and Frenchman – Lani has held regular gigs “and been kicked out of,” she adds with a bigger laugh, just about every venue in New Orleans.  Beside her obvious favorite the Blue Nile, which after being traditionally closed on Mondays recently re-opened its doors just for Lani, she also rattles off d.b.a., Tipitina’s, and the Maple Leaf  amongst other local spots that remain her favorites.

Dionne Character, Keiko Komaki, Lynn Drury and Lani RamosAsk anyone who has had the privilege of playing with Lani and they will tell you despite her hilarious personality she is extremely dedicated, disciplined, and professional – something she credits to growing up an athlete and years of working in L.A. studios, “getting her butt kicked.”  Lani admits that “To be a successful singer you have to learn to be very humble and self-absorbed at the same time.”  Her advice for next generation of rock chicks trying to make it in New Orleans – “practice, practice, practice!”  “You’ll get more recognition through practice than any promotion or advertising,” she says, “Always stick to your own standards and convictions.  Don’t let others bring you down.  Keep beating your own drum and stay positive!”  Lani keeps herself centered by having a having a close relationship with God and having spent a lot of time in the St. Aug choir, kitchen, and gardens.  Ramos’s current work in the community also includes being an advocate for information on black mold and organizing a Memorial Day weekend second line for all EMT’s and First Responders to Katrina and the B.P. oil spill.

As if she’s not busy enough already, Lani has also been working to get funding for her pilot T.V Show Yeah You Rite! which she describes as “A Dean Martin meets Carol Burnett” music and comedy variety show based on New Orleans culture.  Hear her voice and you’ll never forget her, take the time to talk to her just once at set break or as she’s passing around the hat and she’ll never forget you.  Lani Ramos – New Orleans’ very own funk rock chick.

NOTE: Due to the current flood situation in Louisiana and our surrounding neighboring states, the 2nd Line for First Responders will be postponed until mid-summer. Please check back here for future updates.

Purchase this unmastered CD exclusively at Louisiana Music Factory

BIg Pearl Double Faces
1. My New Boyfriend
2. In The N.O.
3. Wounded Knees
4. It Goes Away
5. Be My Husband
6. Conversation Town
7. 1 Last Cigarette
8. Glass Scarecrow
9. Shake That Junk
Big Pearl Double Faces Back Cover


Lani Ramos – Vocals
Mike Wheat – Guitar & Vocals
Keiko Komaki – Keys, Hammond Organ
Jimbo Scott – Bass
Adam Coolsat – Drums
Steven Walker –Horns

Additional Players

Roberto Luti – Guitar
Hubi Vigoreaux – Brushes/Chimes/Shakers
Amzie Adams – Dulcimer
Jessie – Fiddle
Maggie Haven – Tambourine, Cowbell, Background Vocals
Lynn Drury – Background Vocals


San Francisco Examiner article on Lani RamosSan Francisco Examiner • January 2, 2006

Singer, guitarist and songwriter Lani Ramos, a fixture on the New Orleans music scene prior to her Hurricane Katrina-precipitated move to California, performs with her group, Big Pearl
[8:30pm., Biscuits and Blues, 401 Mason St.]

by Jeff Jardine • Modesto Bee • September 22, 2005

Lani RamosThis ultimately becomes the story of a Hurricane Katrina evacuee who experienced kindness and help — firsthand, so to speak — from two local doctors and a hospital in Modesto.

First, though, you have to understand what brought Lani Ramos here.

From the moment Ramos set foot in New Orleans six years ago, she embraced the city’s soul and culture of “laissez les bon temps rouler.”

That, for those who don’t understand French or have never been to the Big Easy, translates to “let the good times roll.”

“I fell in love with New Orleans,” said the 35-year-old singer, guitarist and songwriter whose parents, Ben and Lorrie Ramos, have lived in Modesto since 1989.

She made an impact on New Orleans as well. Ramos and her rock band, Big Pearl, got solid reviews on Web sites such as She began recording and earned gigs at clubs throughout the city, including world-renowned Tipatina’s. She sang with the legendary Fats Domino.
Things were going so perfect that something was going to have to go wrong,” she said. “And that’s what happened.”

That something was Hurricane Katrina. When it bore down last month, Ramos left her two-level apartment on Bourbon Street in the famed French Quarter. She holed up with friends in the opulent Bourbon Orleans Hotel a few blocks away to ride out the storm.

“We’d had so many scares before,” Ramos said. “We thought it was going to be just another story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’ We thought we’d go right back to what we were doing.”

The 150 or so fortunate ones inside the thick-walled, 188-year-old hotel building simply did what they do best in New Orleans. They partied. They enjoyed gourmet meals. They played music and sang. And they were oblivious to the devastation the hurricane and the weakened levee system were about to wreak upon the city.

Ramos held a wine glass in her hand when power went out and the hotel went dark Aug. 29. Pitch black. As she groped her way through the darkness, she walked straight into a wall, crushing the goblet between her left hand and chest.

The broken glass cut into her chest, causing some bloody, albeit minor wounds. Worse, it severed tendons in the middle finger of her left hand. That’s a real problem for a guitar player. But the finger would have to wait.

She faced a more immediate problem: Getting the heck out of New Orleans as the flooding, turmoil and hysteria began.
Ramos stayed long enough to guide a Houston Chronicle reporter to the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, where a statue of Jesus stood virtually unscathed among downed trees.

“He was basically unhurt,” she said.

Then she left New Orleans, crossing the Mississippi River into Algiers before deciding she’d be better off back at her Bourbon Street digs because the French Quarter sits on high ground and wouldn’t flood.

Law enforcement officials refused to let her return.

“They had declared martial law,” she said.

Ramos’ 1985 Mercedes station wagon was desperately low on gas and the stations were all closed. Street lights out, she took to the darkened roads the night of the 31st.

She drove north, scared and alone, but caught a break when a small-town sheriff gave her three gallons of gas. Then a National Guard officer gave her two gallons more. She made it to Baton Rouge, on to Lafayette and eventually to the safety of friends in Crystal Beach, Texas, a city now being evacuated as Hurricane Rita approaches.

Lani Ramos performs at Apple BarrelRamos flew to California, spending a few days in San Francisco before arriving in Modesto on Sept. 11 to stay with her parents. She visited the county’s Health Services Agency to see what could be done about her damaged digit.

As a single woman and a musician, she is among the uninsured. Yet here, she found people who wanted to do their part for Hurricane Katrina victims, even though she admittedly had it better than most during the storm.

Tuesday morning, a health official referred Ramos to the Golden Valley Health Center in Modesto, where she saw Dr. Vikram Khanna and told him about her Katrina experience.

Khanna knew she’d need surgery to resume her musical career. He made some phone calls, looking for a surgeon who would do the operation for free. Dr. Paul Caviale stepped up, and Doctors Medical Center donated the use of an operating room.

“The big question was would he even be able to help her at this point?” Khanna said.

That same evening, Caviale performed a 90-minute procedure to fix her finger.

“She’s had it cut for about two weeks,” Caviale said. “It was good to get it done before it went too much longer. She’ll be able to play the guitar again.”

Ramos affectionately calls Khanna “Dr. Karma” and Caviale “Dr. Cavalier.”

“They’ve been just wonderful to me,” she said. “It all came together so fast.”

She’ll need time to heal and rehabilitate the finger before resuming her career, wherever that might be. Many New Orleans musicians, Ramos said, are showing up at clubs in cities like San Francisco, uncertain whether they’ll ever return to Louisiana.

“I want to say I’ll go back,” she said.

As the song lyrics go, she knows “… what it means to miss New Orleans.”

But unlike her surgically repaired finger, Ramos knows the city will never be the same.

by A.J. Mistretta • Biz New Orleans • March 2005

Vocalist Lani Ramos and guitarist George SartinIt’s a busy Saturday night in the Faubourg Marigny. Groups of club-goers mingle on the sidewalks of Frenchmen airily assessing the sounds emanating from nightspots. At Blue Nile, singer Lani Ramos of Big Pearl takes the stage and begins the slow familiar lament of “Proud Mary”. Her sound piques some interest; A few men huddled around the bar make their way toward the stage, and a young couple sways on the dance floor to the measured tones. Suddenly the drummer pounds out the tempo change and Ramos twirls frantically, her long brown hair flying around her, before regaining the microphone to tell about the good job she left in the city.

Actually, Ramos isn’t nearly ready to depart that city job. After four years in New Orleans, singing in clubs from Magazine Street to Decatur, She feels things are coming together for her band. She’s working on a deal with a technology company to sponsor Big Pearl in upcoming festivals, and the group is also in talks with a talent agent who books high-paying gigs in California.

She says a lot of it has to do with her new onstage partner, guitarist George Sartin. Watching them perform with the two other musicians who round out the group, it’s hard to imagine they’ve only been playing together for four months. “We definitely have a connection.” Ramos says.

Ramos came to New Orleans from Los Angeles in 2000. During her first couple years here, she did covers of mostly Janis Joplin hits in tribute performances to the 1960s rock icon whose voice and style her own closely mirror. Slowly she’s incorporated other sounds and her own songs into the band’s set list.

Growing up in New Orleans, Sartin got his first guitar at age 15 from his mother, a gospel singer who had performed on stage with greats like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. He spend a lot of his early musical career as a reggae guitarist, despite his interest in classic rock.

It’s the mutual affection for rock ‘n’n roll that brought Sartin and Ramos together, and it’s what they believe will draw them a fan base. They say there’s a dearth of “real” rock in the local scene, but nationally the genre is making a comeback even among younger generations. “People know what’s good, no matter how old they are,” Sartin says. “They want something that lasts.”

Sartin and Ramos describe their style broadly as adult contemporary a mix of rock, blues, funk and a little soul. Back at Blue Nile, the crowd seems to buy it. The band belts out a popular Led Zeppelin hit recognizable to most in the club. Soon the dance floor is packed — from a group of teenage girls in feather boas and stilettos to a guy in his 30’s practicing body dives. A few blues songs, some original material, more people trickle in from off the street. By the end of the first set, it’s a bit hard to maneuver through the club.

Ramos released her first CD in late 2003. She describes sales as “OK”, but clearly thinks a Big Pearl album with Sartin will fare better. The two are collaborating on songs and hope to release a CD by the end of the year.

Making a full-time career as musicians still seems distant sometimes. “You can be singing your butt off in this city and still need a day job,” says Sartin who works as a plumber and a carpenter.

Ramos, who supplements her income with freelance graphic design work and assistance from her family, says the band is flirting with profitability. She’d like to see the development of a local musicians’ union that could help improve pay scales, but Sartin disagrees. In a city chock-full of musical talent, he says, there will always be someone waiting to take a gig another musician gives up.

The only way to reach the Big Time is to find a unique style and make it work, and Big Pearl is on its way to doing that, he says, “I can see us five years from now with a couple records out.”

“More than a couple, definitely,” Ramos chimes in. “I have a Christmas album I want to do.”

He laughs. Sartin shares Ramos’ optimism, but another focus for him is setting an example for his 4-year-old son, Daniel, who is already expressing interest in playing in a band with his dad. Would he encourage his son to follow in his footsteps?

“Absolutely, if that’s what he wanted to do. Where would I be if my mother didn’t encourage me?”