Various Artists

You Don't Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold

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Eddy Arnold had an amazing career. He recorded his first single in 1945, charted 147 songs, 28 of which were number one hits, released over 100 albums, and sold over 85 million records. Over a stretch from 1947 through 1948 he outsold the entire pop division at his label RCA Records, owning the number one song at the top of the country charts for an astounding 60 straight weeks in 1948 (he only missed the top for two weeks in November that year), and no other recording artist has lodged Top Ten hits in seven straight decades. And he did all this without much fanfare, without wearing Nudie suits or big hats, without drinking binges or drug problems, and if there was a steadier or more consistent artist in the modern recording era, well, there really isn't. Yet Arnold is largely unknown to contemporary music fans a decade-and-change into the 21st century, while his contemporary for a time, Hank Williams, is revered and namechecked constantly. Williams deserves his accolades and adoration, of course, but Arnold, whose smooth, string-sweetened Nashville sound was at the other end of the scale from Williams, deserves it as well. Between the two of them, these two artists set the end poles for the template of modern country music. This striking tribute, set in motion by Arnold's grandson R. Shannon Pollard, himself a musician, and produced by Cheetah Chrome (with Don Cusic), features all manner of contemporary artists, from Frank Black to Peter Noone (yes, the Herman's Hermits guy), taking turns at interpreting songs from Arnold's vast catalog. Not everything works, of course, but most of it does, like Bobby Bare, Jr.'s warm take on "Make the World Go Away," Mary Gauthier's wonderful rendition of "You Don't Know Me," Jason Ringenberg's cow punk and rockabilly-laced "Texarkana Baby," Drivin' N' Cryin's beautiful version of "Wreck of the Old 97," and Jason Isbell's moving "Johnny Reb, That's Me," arguably the best moment here. It adds up to a fine testament to Arnold's work and legacy. He passed in 2008 and there certainly won't be another like him.

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