Aubrey Haynie,
The Bluegrass Fiddle Album
(Sugar Hill, 2003)

There's a short list of fiddlers that anyone in the bluegrass field would be delighted to record with and that any fan would be doubly delighted to hear. On this list are such luminaries as Mark O'Connor, Byron Berline, Bobby Hicks, Kenny Baker, Stuart Duncan and others, and to that list may be added Aubrey Haynie. Haynie flourished under the tutelage of O'Connor himself, and fully realizes his early potential with this superb album of bluegrass fiddling. He's got some great backup from the likes of Barry Bales, Sam Bush, Tony Rice and David Talbot, but Haynie would be fine listening unadorned by accompaniment -- he's that good.

There's a tip of the hat to the past with the low-fi beginning of "Buckner's Breakdown," a Haynie original that's followed by his "Hamilton Special," which boasts an amazing guitar solo by the remarkable Tony Rice. It's a smooth, singing tune that showcases Haynie's superb double-stops. "McHattie's Waltz" is a gorgeous Kenny Baker tune, and at this slower tempo we can appreciate all the more Haynie's perfect intonation. No matter how many double-stops he plays, every note is precisely on the money.

Baker's "Ducks on the Millpond" is a jumpy, jaunty little tune, and "Smith's Rag" provides Haynie with the opportunity to show off his daunting improvisational skills. "Bluegrass in the Backwoods" is one of Kenny Baker's more dramatic minor-key compositions, and there's a beautifully constructed Sam Bush solo here. The whole tune is bluesy bluegrass at its best. Six of the 12 tunes here are by Baker, and Haynie does a sweet job with his "April's Reel." "Make a Little Boat" takes a traditional tune and bends it to Haynie's purposes. Tony Rice does the same with the lovely "Ook Pik Waltz," using alternate chords to make the tune even more deliriously beautiful.

Baker's "Long Cold Winter" is reminiscent of his classic "Jerusalem Ridge," with its shifts from major to minor chords, and it's followed by one final Baker tune, "First Day in Town." The CD ends with a version of "Bill Cheatham" that absolutely rips.

Aubrey Haynie is an extraordinary fiddler, with great chops and a wealth of musical imagination. I'd conclude by saying that all these tunes play to his strengths, but he just doesn't seem to have any weaknesses! This one's a must for any fan of bluegrass instrumentals.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 27 September 2003

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