Low Cut Connie with special guest Fantastic Cat
Low Cut Connie
Alternating between raucous rock and roll ecstasy and gritty, stripped-down vulnerability, ‘PRIVATE LIVES’ is Low Cut Connie’s most potent and wide-ranging work to date, a complicated, sprawling double-album that’s at once beautiful and sloppy, brilliant and sordid, pissed off and joyous. Exploring the schisms between our inward and outward-facing selves, the 17-track collection is as empathetic as it is ambitious, giving voice to the losers and loners and outcasts who live their lives beyond the spotlight without glory or credit.
“I see more clearly now than ever before what my calling is,” explains frontman Adam Weiner. “I’m here to write and sing for the underdogs, for everybody who’s not part of that shiny, sexy 1%.”
While Weiner might not call ‘Private Lives’ a concept album, there is an underlying architecture at play. The record’s vacillations between riotous, anarchic anthems and raw, painfully honest solo performances underscore the lyrical shifts between its expressions of the public and private self. What do we show the world when we walk out the door? Who are we in our most personal spaces? The result plays out like a series of short films populated by dive bar patrons and late shift workers, single parents and starving artists, sex workers, gutter punks, and senior citizens. Weiner’s characters are ordinary folks just looking for escape and connection in a society that’s built on bad faith and broken promises. Rather than romanticize their struggles, though, ‘Private Lives’ dignifies them, painting rich, nuanced portraits of the kind of modern American lives that often go ignored or misunderstood.
Weiner’s no stranger to struggle, himself. In the three years he spent writing and recording ‘Private Lives,’ he weathered what was perhaps the most tumultuous stretch of his life, rearranging the band’s lineup multiple times, facing down a harrowing mental health crisis and multiple injuries, and reimagining just what Low cut Connie was. Nearly thirty different musicians appear on the self-produced record, which Weiner captured raw and loose in studios across the country during a time in which he was spending more than 200 days a year on the road, lugging hard drives and tapes with him everywhere he went. If that sounds like a chaotic way to make an album, that’s because, quite frankly, it was, and the music is refreshingly impulsive and unpolished as a result.
Hailed as “pathologically fun” by The New York Times, Low Cut Connie first exploded out of Philadelphia roughly a decade ago with their self-released debut, ‘Get Out The Lotion.’ Crossing the rapturous energy of Jerry Lee Lewis with the flamboyant sleaze of the New York Dolls, the record earned immediate critical raves, with Rolling Stone describing it as “what indie rock might sound like were it invented in Alabama in the late fifties” and NPR’s Fresh Air praising it as “both a throwback to early rock and a vital collection of raucous new music.” A year later, they followed it up with ‘Call Me Sylvia,” which the NY Daily News called “Mott the Hoople-style honky-tonk with a hint of garage-punk spunk,” and in early 2015, they returned again with ‘Hi Honey,’ an album dubbed “the essence of what rock ‘n’ roll should be” by Sound Opinions host and legendary rock critic Greg Kot. Despite all the glowing press, Low Cut Connie still remained something of an underground phenomenon, continuing to build up their cult audience one sweaty show and glorious festival at a time. That all changed in the summer of 2015, though, with a very unexpected co-sign from Barack Obama, who added the group to his summer playlist. Soon the band was counting the likes of Elton John and Bruce Springsteen among their fans as they sold out increasingly larger and larger rooms around the country. With more eyes on them than ever before, the band delivered big in 2017 and 2018, releasing a pair of critically lauded albums—‘Dirty Pictures (Part 1)’ and ‘Dirty Pictures (Part 2)’—and by the time 2019 came to an end, they were sitting pretty on Rolling Stone’s Best of the Decade list.
They said it couldn’t be done. Four different songwriters joining forces to form a single band? There was simply no precedent (outside of CSNY, The Beatles, The Traveling Wilburys, The Highwaymen, Monsters of Folk, etc). And yet Fantastic Cat did it anyway, defying the odds and teaming up to record their highly unanticipated debut, The Very Best Of Fantastic Cat. Captured in the wilds of the Pocono Mountains, the album gleefully careens between genres and decades, mixing electrified 60’s folk and 70’s AM radio gold as it balances careful craftsmanship and ecstatic abandon in equal measure.
Individually, each member of Fantastic Cat boasts their own impressive resume along with a litany of critical acclaim. The Guardian dubbed Don DiLego “one to watch.” NPR said Anthony D’Amato “sings and writes in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen or Josh Ritter. ”Rolling Stone called Brian Dunne’s latest single a “stunner” and praised Mike Montali’s band, Hollis Brown, as “the soundtrack for a late-night drive through the American heartland.” Collectively, though, the four transcend their respective roots, emerging as an instrument-swapping, harmony-trading, tear-jerking, wise-cracking rock and roll cooperative far greater than the sum of its parts.
They say some cats are born fantastic; others have fantasy thrust upon them. These guys are somewhere in the middle.