Low Cut Connie enjoy a well-deserved reputation as a great live act. Lead singer/pianist Adam Weiner pounds the keys and croons the lyrics with an infectious glee and a nasty sneer as if he, the band, and the audience were in some kind of deliciously nasty threesome. And while Weiner may be out in front, guitarists James Everhart and Will Donnelly are dangerous-looking physical presences who contort their bodies and pluck their strings like hoodlums cleaning their nails with a switchblade. Meanwhile drummer Larry Scotton and bassist Lucas Rinz keep the rhythms tight so that the energy never lags. And the newest member of the group former Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings singer Saundra Williams has a real presence that commands attention. If you have never seen Low Cut Connie live, I recommend you do it NOW. You can thank me later.
There is usually a point in Low Cut Connie’s live gigs when Weiner will address the crowd and say he doesn’t care if one is old or young, what color, gender or sexual preference one has, etc. His inclusivity creates a spirit of passion as well as compassion. He points out that we all are sharing the same moment in music and bringing us together makes us have a better time than if we are feeling alone. It’s hard to secure that feeling on a recording. We are all listening alone whether in our car, our house, or on the computer or MP3 player. Like Billy Idol used to sing, we are dancing with ourselves.
Last year’s Dirty Pictures (Part 1) did a very good job of capturing the wilder barroom vigor of a Low Cut Connie set, but it shied away from the more sensitive aspects of the show. They were never just a high energy machine. They would often change the pace and create an intimate space for people to share. Their songs often depicted the sloppy side of life of those living life on the margins like the woman from who they took their name, the waitress at a local diner who worked hard all week and partied harder on the weekend. The person Low Cut Connie saw adversity as a hard basic fact of existence that takes effort to overcome—but has the gumption to do so.
Dirty Pictures (Part 2) winningly shows the other side of life through open-eyes. While Dirty Pictures (Part 1) largely celebrated good times, the new album suggests that life is not always so grand, love can fade away, people can behave in ways against their self-interest, and such. The songs empathize with their characters, who often lack financial resources, self-confidence, and emotional stability.
Consider the first track released from the new record, “Beverly”. The story concerns a couple who no longer seem to communicate. The narrator pleads for connection. The woman “Beverly” suffers from ennui or some form of a condition which has walled her off from her lover and other people. All the narrator can do is beg for attention. The musical accompaniment conveys the urgency he feels. Weiner delivers the tale as a suitor trying to persuade a reluctant partner. The song ends inconclusively. He doesn’t seem to be able to get through to her, but he also is unable to give up trying. It’s as if a Raymond Carver story was reduced to a four-minute song and ended with a punch to the gut.
Other songs are more uninhibited “Well it’s a goddamn motherfucking game to you / I don’t want to play” begins “Master Tapes”, and there are other tracks that contain explicit lyrics as well. This is not done for shock value but for realism, as the South Philly residents speak in the vernacular of the region. (As a Trenton, New Jersey boy, I can attest to the language’s authenticity.) Cuts such as “All These Kids Are Way Too High” and “Hey! Little Child” bemoan those too cool to get down or too young to have experienced life with the narrator’s knowledge of the anomie that awaits them. Again, the songs don’t condemn them as much as offer still life portraits of the individuals in the hope that something positive may change them.
While there are some slow and quiet tracks on Dirty Pictures (Part 2) such as the confession of a loser “Hollywood” and the soulful plea “Every Time You Turn Around”, there are still a number of rockin’ tunes including the soundtrack to a break up “Oh Suzanne” and its thematic companion “Please Do Not Come Home”. The material may concern life’s losers but it’s still largely an upbeat album that exults in the fact that people and circumstances are always in transition. And in the meantime, Weiner preaches love over hate. We are all in this world together. Even when he encounters racism, as on “Desegregation”, he does his best not to despise the fools just their foolishness. Low Cut Connie knows that what we see when we look at ourselves and others depends on our own dirty minds. The pictures themselves mean nothing without our interpretations.