This is bluegrass. Straight up bluegrass. Well, with a little country thrown in here and there, but not much. Aubrey Haynie is probably the most sought-after session fiddle player on the country and bluegrass circuit today. Haynie began playing fiddle before he was even 10 and picked up the mandolin soon thereafter. By the early 1990s, Haynie was touring with Aaron Tippin and then Clint Black. Not too shabby for a teenager! But Haynie truly is a session player, not a performer. In the world of big-name country music, Haynie has recorded with George Jones, Trisha Yearwood, and Porter Wagoner, but in the world of bluegrass, he is ubiquitous, and rightfully so—he is an astounding musician.
Haynie penned 11 of the 15 tracks on A Man Must Carry On. Yet though Haynie is a mandolin and fiddle virtuoso, his music showcases his talents no less than any of the other players on the album, many of them, like Rob Ickes and Bela Fleck, virtuosos themselves. Part of the joy of A Man Must Carry On comes from Haynie’s subtlety. While bluegrass music in general demands mastery and instrumental fluency, the truly beautiful tracks on this collection feature masterful fills from Haynie more than any technical adroitness. But still, between the songs with the masterful fills come blazing bluegrass-stringed brilliance. For example, following the melancholy “Butcher Boy,” “Yeehaw Junction” blows the blues from your mind with blistering solos as all the players spotlight their chops. Haynie and friends can make you forget the heartbreaking suicide of the meat-cutter’s jilted girlfriend, though a moment before you had tears in your eyes thinking about her grave.
Haynie is truly a gifted musician. His lilting fiddle can fill a song with all kinds of emotion, especially on the slower more dolorous heart-wrenching numbers. Mainly known as a fiddle player, Haynie’s skills, dexterity, and musical vision excel on this instrument, but his mandolin skills are no less stunning. Listening to A Man Must Carry On and knowing that Haynie burns up both instruments can be a bit mind-blowing at times. If you love bluegrass, but fear some of the schmaltz that has come to pass for bluegrass in the last decade or so—sappy acoustic music with a mandolin and banjo does not bluegrass make—Aubrey Haynie’s new album will reaffirm your faith.