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Hand-Holdin' Songs

In the ’40s, Arnold was one of Nashville’s most popular stars, both a genuine Southern farmer and a mellow- voiced crooner whose polished phrasing and lack of rural speech helped ease the cultural stigma of hillbilly music. By the ’50s, however, Arnold was a bona fide pop singer, and a decade later he was one of the most visible purveyors of the pop-influenced Nashville Sound. Arnold is 71 now, and this album, his first in years, is an embarrassing collection of schlock (”Can’t Help Falling in Love,” ”You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”), made worse by overwrought string-synthesizer arrangements and sloppy intonation. A pity.

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