As a kid I never really gave a thought to the music of Eddy Arnold. I was too busy damaging my ears with as much metal and punk music that I could get my hands on. As I grew older my musical tastes broadened with the realization that there was more to the music world than loud guitars and screaming vocals. With this awakening I delved into the music of Hank Sr. and I began to uncover other great singers such as George Jones, Hank Snow, Don Williams and Eddy Arnold.
From farmer to country music legend, Arnold recorded some of the best music to come out of Nashville. No flash in the pan, he kept songs on the charts for 6 decades starting with “Each Minute Seems A Million Years” in 1945 and ending with “To Life” in 2008. His longevity is rivaled by few, and singers today hope of having a career with a fraction of Mr. Arnold’s success.
With Arnold gone, the folks at Tennessee label Plowboy Records (named after Arnold’s nick name ‘Tennessee Plowboy’) have taken it upon themselves to keep Eddy Arnold’s music and name alive for music listeners today to enjoy. One way to do that is with the bad ass tribute album You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold. I know what you are thinking, another tribute album, but before you condemn it, listen to it. Unlike most tribute albums, Plowboy didn’t go out and get the biggest names so they could make a buck or fill it full of artists that had previously recorded an Arnold song. They went out and collected a group of musicians that knew Arnold’s music, loved it and were honored to be a part of the project. The songs were recorded for the album and it holds some mighty fine renditions of Arnold’s music.
Coming from all avenues of the music world, the artists on You Don’t Know Me deliver impassioned performances making the songs their own while paying respect to Arnold. There is no karaoke crap going on here. Alejandro Escovedo kicks things off with “It’s A Sin” and from there things just get better as you make your way through the record. With 19 tracks of good music it would be hard to go over each one so here are some I think are worth mentioning. Punk hall of famers, Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys) and Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) each deliver some of the best music on the record. Chrome’s gravelly voice framed by sultry guitars and funky horns gives new life to “What Is Life Without Love” and jaunty piano gives Sylvain’s version of “That Do Make It Nice” a little honky tonk/juke joint feel. “Texarkana Baby” is given the Jason Ringenberg touch and Lambchop does justice to the mellow “Jim, I Wore A Tie Today”. Melinda Doolittle delivers a sultry version of “Bouquet Of Roses” which is the total opposite of the raunchy blues infused “I’ll Hold You In My Heart” offered up by Bebe Buell. Frank Black steps away from the noise and squalor of the Pixies and the Catholics for a very subdued “Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle”. Two songs I really dig are from a couple of my favorite musicians. Jason Isbell performs an incredible “Johnny Reb, That’s Me”. His voice is accompanied by sparse guitars and fiddles as he belts out the emotional tune. Then there is Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, the rock band steps up and rocks out “Wreck Of The Old 97”. Kevn Kinney’s voice sounds natural singing an Eddy Arnold tune, and Sadler Vaden’s guitars never fail to impress.
This album is a shining beacon in a muddied musical world. There is a wealth of great music out there you just sometimes have to wade through the muck to get to the good stuff and Plowboy Records is helping out with the wading. Rock, country, soul and a heck of a lot of other sounds fill this record bringing life to a set of classic songs that need to be remembered. While this is a good record it also will introduce Arnold’s music to a group of new fans. If you are a fan of Eddy Arnold, any of the artists on this record or just dig great music then you owe it to yourself to get You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold and tell everyone you know about it.