Rebel Records is set to release a compilation CD on July 17 featuring the music of Jimmy Arnold, one of the most gifted pickers ever to play bluegrass music. The project is entitled Riding With Ol’ Mosby, and contains 17 tracks taken from his three Rebel releases Rainbow Ride, Strictly Arnold, and Southern Soul.
All but three are instrumentals, showcasing Jimmy’s impeccable work on banjo, fiddle and guitar. The compilation will also include three previously unreleased tracks, from Rainbow Ride, and Arnold’s Guitar album.
Jimmy Arnold was an instrumentalist with very few peers when he first hit the scene in the early 1970s. He played with fiddle legend Joe Greene in Nashville, and even performed for a while with Keith Whitley before his first solo project, Strictly Arnold, was released in 1974. Especially on banjo, Jimmy mixed modern and traditional styles effortlessly, and with a gorgeous, singing tone that has strongly influenced some of today’s leading banjo pickers. His playing was daring and adventurous, but always joyous and playful at the same time.
Stories of his memorable picking at jam sessions and festival parking lots are legion, and few witnessed such a performance without being powerfully affected.
Even as a young man, alcohol was a recurring problem for Jimmy, and those who knew and loved him saw his drinking as a path to certain self destruction. Gigs with bands that had been eager to hire him were often short-lived, and despite releasing several further LPs, he abandoned music in the mid-80s and opened a tattoo parlor in NC. His addictive tendencies got the best of him again, and drug abuse and eventually prison marked his life during this time.
Jimmy returned from prison a changed man, however, and stayed clean and returned to music, becoming active in church. Sadly, his body could never recover from the earlier chemical assaults, and he passed away in 1992, dying of heart failure on Christmas Day.
Many younger bluegrass fans – and players as well – are unfamiliar with the tremendous contributions Jimmy Arnold made to our music. This Rebel release should make it easier for people to hear and study his playing, and we hope many will do so.
Both Strictly Arnold and Rainbow Ride are scheduled for simultaneous release in their entirety on iTunes, for download only, on July 17.