VARIOUS ARTISTS – You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold

Album: You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Plowboy

Release Date: October 07, 2014

Americana Eddy Arnold

www.plowboyrecords.com

 BY STEVEN ROSEN

 You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold is a perfect example of how Americana – especially its cowpunk subdivision – can really help an out-of-favor country artist get his groove back. Arnold, who died in 2008 at age 89, was one of the crooners who ushered in the age of smooth Nashville countrypolitan with an enviable streak of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, including “Make the World Go Away,” “What’s He Doing in My World,” and “Turn the World Around.” (He was a “worldly” presence in country music.)

 That’s not the Nashville style most revered these days – Americana favors something with more bite while commercial country favors banal tailgate-party-friendly arena-rock wannabes. But Arnold’s songs, some of which he helped write, were first-rate – all they need is a little more twang or scruffiness to be relevant today.

 And he gets that treatment, mostly to good results, on You Don’t Know Me’s 19 songs, some recorded at the RCA Historic Studio B that Arnold often called home. The project is the result of an odd-couple partnership between Arnold’s grandson, musician Shannon Pollard, and former Dead Boy punkster Cheetah Chrome, now a Nashville resident. (Also involved as co-producer with Chrome is music professor Don Cusic; go here to read the recent BLURT interview with Chrome, by the way.)

 It starts with a triumph, Alejandro Escovedo’s bitter yet swaggering “It’s a Sin,” and continues on with Bobby Bare Jr.’s tough take on “Make the World Go Away,” Mary Gauthier’s intimately drawling and slightly contemptuous version of “You Don’t Know Me” (with Ralph Carney’s teasing clarinet), and Jason Ringenberg’s rousing, shouting, piano-pounding “Texarkana Baby.” The latter could fit on a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute.

 Chrome, his singing voice more a groan than a croon, gives himself one of the album’s finest songs, “What Is Life Without Love.” It is given a swinging Dixieland-band horn arrangement from Carney that slowly pushes and challenges Chrome’s voice and guitar to greater heights. It’s as impressive as anything he’s done as a solo artist.

 His pal, New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain, is positively jaunty with his quasi-vaudevillian take on the good-natured “That Do Make It Nice.” It features a nice whistling part, too.

 There are more fine cuts – including Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner’s droll, recitative interpretation of “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today,” Frank Black’s sobering “Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle,” and Mandy Barnett’s sensuously becalming, ghost-of-Patsy-Cline version of “How’s the World Treating You.”

 There are also a couple strange choices. Peter Noone, maybe hoping for a future Americana Does Herman’s Hermits tribute album if he helps out on this, does a competent but undistinguished “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.” And while Chrome and Jason & the Scorchers’ Warner E. Hodges create sparks with their guitar work on Bebe Buell’s “I’ll Hold You in My Heart,” singing is really hard for her and it shows.

 Still, if there’s ever a Tribute Album Olympics, where each city enters the best such record to be produced by its music community, this would be a worthy entry from Nashville.

 DOWNLOAD: Aw, just go ahead and pick ‘em to your picker’s heart’s delight!

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