Low Cut Connie
Photo: Shervin Lainez / Missing Piece Group

Low Cut Connie Pays Homage to New York and Lou Reed on ‘Art Dealers’

Low Cut Connie’s Art Dealers offers empathetic portraits of people and places that he presumes have been undeservedly ignored or overlooked.

Art Dealers
Low Cut Connie
Contender Records
8 September 2023

Rock maven Adam Weiner dedicated Low Cut Connie‘s new album Art Dealers to Lou Reed. Many of the songs were inspired by Weiner’s experiences in Reed’s old digs, the decadent New York City scene of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. New York was a place where gay bathhouses and art galleries blossomed together to create a place where adventuresome music and imaginative and idiosyncratic behavior flourished. Weiner used to be part of the scene as a piano player in LGBT bars. He observed the creators, the clientele, and the neighborhoods.

Art Dealers isn’t a concept record per se, although the songs cross the same turf and connect. Think of it as a kind of aural, experimental off-Broadway play where the various scenes may take place in the same venue with different characters who may or may not relate. Weiner is the heart and soul of the album (although this is a band LP, and all the musicians kick butt). The individual tracks offer empathetic portraits of people and places that he presumes have been undeservedly ignored or overlooked. The album’s underlying theme concerns Weiner’s growth as the world changed around him.

Musically, Low Cut Connie embrace Reed’s textured approach to pop music. The songs often employ a steady beat and backup singers to address the ecstatic and the sordid on equal terms. The melodrama of pre-British Invasion teen tunes, doo-wop, girl groups, novelty tracks, and the like lie at the heart of Reed’s rock and roll. “Doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo,” indeed. Like Reed, Low Cut Connie links the innocent with the lurid to reveal the all too human stories.

Art Dealer begins with “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know”, which opens with a female chorus loudly announcing, “turn me on”. Then, the music gets noisy with feedback-laden electric guitar sounds and pounding drums. Weiner humbly proclaims he is just “a song and dance man”. The instrumental portion rocks hard in contrast to the singer’s more innocent claims. The purposeful confusion of styles suggests the singer understands things are more complex than they may outwardly seem. His purpose is to tell the history because it was a magical time and place that is in danger of being forgotten.

Songs such as “Don’t Get Fresh With Me”, “Whips and Chains”, and “Sleaze Me On” recall the ambitious and catchy sounds of Reed albums documenting city life, such as Street Hassle and Growing Up in Public. There’s the mix of the deadpan Gotham City smile with the knowledge of other worlds within worlds of experience. Desire is a bitch. How things look are and are not what’s real.

“All the glitter in the world is made in a factory in New Jersey off of Exit Nine,” Weiner the smart ass sings before he confesses his attraction to the shimmering life. Every Jersey denizen knows that Garden State refugees are the secret behind the Big Apple’s pulsating inner life. “Are You Gonna Run” offers a Bruce Springsteen vibe as Weiner understands that he was born to do so. (No wonder “Born to Run” is the unofficial New Jersey state song that’s really about leaving.) Weiner sings “Take Me to the Place” over a feverish rock backdrop because he knows he’s not there even when he is there.

One explicit way in which Weiner and Reed connect is their Jewish self-identity. In the video for the song “King of the Jews”, Weiner dons tefillin, the leather straps Jews wrap around the head and arms to show their devotion. Religion is more than just a metaphor here, but this is more of a secular journey than a spiritual one. The lyrics are self-referential. Weiner calls himself “a schmuck”, “a putz”, and “a motherfucker”. He reverently plays the piano like the organist at a gospel church service. Being Jewish has given him the power to be true to himself: an outsider.

Low Cut Connie are known for their rocking live shows. Weiner’s over-the-top performance style regularly has him climbing atop his piano, tearing off his T-shirt, and pulling out chest hairs. There are several cuts here, such as “Big Boy”, “I Don’t Understand You”, and “Call Out Me Name”, that easily would get a crowd excited with their mix of titillating lyrics and thumping vocal and instrumental accompaniments. One can imagine Weiner leaving the stage and joining the audience on these numbers. Of course, Weiner’s electrifying style makes it possible to believe he would jump into a crowd of fans while singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.

Not every song on Art Dealers is a rocker. The title track describes the impact of AIDS on the community. The tone is appropriately somber. Weiner sings “Wonderful Boy” in falsetto over a slow piano melody to reveal the emotional toll of being alive and in love. Low Cut Connie ends the album with the acoustic “The Party’s Over” as the singer laments the death of a once vibrant scene. He’s more melancholic than mournful as befits the contents celebrating what once was warts and all. He says he feels like a garbageman who has lost his wedding ring. It’s sad but not tragic. Everything changes. The golden days are over, but the singer buoyantly reminds us that we can still boogie on down the road. Who knows what the future will bring?

RATING 8 / 10