The first time I heard Ween’s ’12 Golden Country Greats’ which on July 16th celebrates its 20th birthday: I felt a little heartbroken (which is a pretty ironic feeling to have considering this album is a great heartbreak album). I was in the middle of high school and had been anticipating the follow-up to ‘Chocolate and Cheese’ since the legendary album’s September 1994 release date. I had tuned in at that point and needed a new Ween release to help keep life a little weird. When we’re young we can be a little closed minded when it comes to art. At the time, this album felt like a cruel joke. A joke my adolescent 16 year old mind did not understand.
Maybe it was my South Jersey upbringing. To me the only country music I knew was pop country and I hated it (still do). As a child, I probably saw one maybe two if not all of these ‘Country Greats’ performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville during my family’s annual Summer Mexico road trips yet did not truly appreciate it (though the shows to my memory were amazing). Accessibility in my world toward the classic country I now hold sacred was close to impossible. I had no peers to point me in the musical direction of getting into artists like Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, even Gram Parsons. Little did I know, by making a country record, Ween was opening up a greater appreciation for this music in my young world. If this was their intention, they succeeded. If the only intention was making a damn good country record that has withstood the test of time, they succeeded at that too. ’12 Golden Country Greats’ has the same quality of any classic country tune, it never gets old.
Here’s to 20!!!
Below is a link and brief lyric recollection to each of the album’s 10 tracks. Enjoy—-
1.) I’m Holding You
For many years, waking up in a pull of vomit was not an uncommon occurrence. ‘I’m Holding You’ is a great ‘night-after’ song and by ‘night-after’ I don’t mean the kind of night you may find yourself bragging to your friends about. I’m talking about those nights where you’re “seein’ (or “trippin”)/the future, the past as I lay the present to waste” kind of nights. This song is made for the morning after those nights. It’s a good first song of the day kind of song and an even better opening song to an album which can now proudly carry the label of being considered a classic.
2.) Japanese Cowboy
If somebody can find me a line written over the past 20 years more country than ‘breakfast at Shoney’s for 2.99’ there’s a good chance you’ve never drove through the truck stop heartland in the 90’s.
3.) Piss Up A Rope
I’ve used the term: “up shit’s creek with a turd for a paddle” almost as many times as I’ve had this song on repeat while driving around feeling dejected about life. Being a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due, I will always chime in by saying something like: “it’s like the brownest band I know would say” or “like one of the greatest relationship anthems ever written states” however most people won’t know what I am talking about. Though for the few that do, it’s like meeting a long lost family member for the first time. The Boognish runs deep inside every member of the Brown Community.
4.) I Don’t Want To Leave You On The Farm
This track has grown on me over the years and become a very special song which carries a lot of meaning. The song mentions how we change over time (“corns turn brown leaves fall to the ground”) yet deep down inside there’s a piece of us that never changes (a “sound that sticks like glue”). The lyrics to the song on paper come across as sad however this sadness gets lost in the upbeat music being played to support them. A quick note, in an interview 5 years ago with the producer of the album, ‘Mr. Many Moods’ Ben Vaughn, he states that this is the only song Dean Ween plays lead guitar on. The guitar work is definitely enthusiast-worthy.
5.) Pretty Girl
The hoedown song. Before I saw the band live, in my mind, this song represented the time in a Ween concert where every guy would grab a girl that wanted to “roll and rock them” (or vice versa) and square dance in the middle of a dance circle. Judging by some of the altered states I’ve been in while attending a Ween concert, it may have very well been going on all along.
6.) Powder Blue
The infamous-missing Mohammed Ali sample with legendary country ‘greats’ playing in the background. It doesn’t get any Brown-er than that if you’re a Ween fan. These are the reasons having more access to music is very essential to the most dedicated music fans, the Mohammed Ali sample gives the somewhat nonsensical lyrics of the song a little more perspective by showing how in music you don’t know how good things will be when they go together unless you try (a quality Ween possesses which is the reason they’re one of my all time favorite bands).
7.) Mister Richard Smoker
If anybody is offended by this song you know nothing about where Ween is from and you probably aren’t gay or don’t know many gay people. New Hope, Pennsylvania has always been a very strong gay community and it prides itself on being one of the most historically gay-friendly towns on the East Coast. You also have to think about the circumstances surrounding the song. Two guys from New Hope going down to Nashville and recording a gay-pride country song over 20 years ago. Another example of Brown at its finest. To this day, the term “you’re an Ono yoker” is one of my favorite lines created by any artist.
8.) Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My Brain
I Always crack up at the line “that Frenchman likes to party” and any time I see Gene Ween sing it he seems to also crack up. This one gets stuck in your head pretty easily. Especially when you’re the type of person that gets inside their heads every so often. Go figure!
9.) You Were The Fool
The one song on the album that sounds the least country and for some reason sounds like it would fit perfectly on every Ween album released after ’12 Country Greats.’ While the band has always prided themselves on fusing together many different styles of music, if you’re a fan like myself, it’s hard to deny how the band’s sound has evolved over time. This is right around the time the current 5-piece touring band was coming together making it no surprise that this is one of the songs from this album they have mastered in a live setting.
I don’t think you can fully appreciate the magical intensity this song brings until you see it performed live! What a way to close out any Ween show and what a final track to place on this timeless album. “Why you do it, Fluffy?”