Tuesday, October 8 "I'd feel like a bastard answering that question," says Dean Ween when pressed to explain the country songwriting process. "I'm no way an authority. It would be like saying I've mastered the Renaissance arts style." No less authorities than Rolling Stone, SPIN, Entertainment Weekly, and Details agreed by brutally panning Ween's new 12 Golden Country Greats -- a collection of 10 country songs (yes, only 10) with backing from real Nashville session veterans.
What the big boys overlooked, however, is that parody project or not, 12 Golden Country Greats is not only Ween's first truly cohesive record, it's also centered on the same bedroom studio songwriting approach that's brought Dean and Gene Ween an undeniably hip following for gibberish mixes of New Wave, funk, metal, and soul.
"A lot of the stuff we went to Nashville with didn't really sound like country music, but you start slapping pedal steel and fiddles on it and immediately it takes on that flavor regardless of the original source," says Dean of the sessions that their label didn't learn about until the masters were turned in. "And the cool thing about country music is that alcoholism is so conducive to good country writing and playing. We've found it's really fun to get completely drunk and play it, or write, or write about it. That's been our primary observation. With country, you can start drinking, and get worse, and worse and worse and it's still mostly okay."
Advance word on Ween's touring version of their country hangover project, complete with more Nashville veterans, has the shows as much better than okay, and yet something just short of what Ween describes "as one of the best bands out there, right now, or anytime." A proposed cover of Montell Jordan's "That's The Way We Like It" also sounds promising enough, although Ween says he's having more fun just reworking old Ween songs to better fit their new gig. "It's so visually funny to start, but we're really kicking when we play the really heinous older Ween stuff," he says. "We figured we'd dare ourselves to play it and the kids ended up going berserk. Not just because it's old, but because the idea of playing `Reggae Junkie Jew' with nine old guys from Nashville is so hilarious in itself. For the first time we're not limited because of the tape deck, or that nature of our speeding up and slowing down the vocals on the records. But I'm sure that after 30 days on tour somebody's going to spit on me, throw something or say something. I'll learn then, I suppose."
-- Andy Langer