Various Artists, You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold

Andrew Mueller

By Andrew Mueller

on 05.16.14 in Reviews

The degree to which Eddy Arnold requires any “rediscovering” is debatable: The Country Music Hall Of Famer, who died in 2008, sold 85 million records, had 147 songs reach the Billboard country chart and saw his songs spend a cumulative 145 weeks at No. 1. If Arnold didn’t spend his spare afternoons beside a guitar-shaped swimming pool, it wasn’t because he couldn’t afford one.

Jason Isbell, Lambchop and others argue for Arnold’s place in country music history

Nevertheless, it’s at least arguable that posterity doesn’t hold Arnold in quite the same regard as his approximate contemporary George Jones, ¬which, as You Don’t Know Me convincingly argues, is unfair. Arnold was both a great songwriter and a great interpreter of the songs of others, and this distinguished cast has audible fun making both cases with 19 songs Arnold either wrote or recorded.

The diversity of the album’s highlights is testament to the versatility of Arnold’s canon. Mary Gauthier brings a wry melodrama to the title track. Jason Isbell recruits “Johnny Reb, That’s Me” into his own formidable canon of fatalistic military narratives, making it sound a companion to “Dress Blues” and “Tour Of Duty.” Lambchop elevates “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today” into sumptuous schmaltz. Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ go unabashedly Skynyrd on “Wreck of the Old ’97,” and Frank Black delivers a winningly plaintive waltz on “Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle.”