Aubrey Haynie,
A Man Must Carry On
(Sugar Hill, 2000)

Every now and then I listen to something I wouldn't normally pick up. Even less often, I am pleasantly surprised by my straying from my beaten path. Aubrey Haynie's album A Man Must Carry On is one of those truly pleasant surprises.

A Man Must Carry On is a collection of mostly instrumental and a few vocal pieces that fall into the bluegrass/country genre. The album is upbeat, fun and really well-excecuted.

Haynie is a fiddle and mandolin player with some great talents. Fortunately, Haynie does not commit what I consider to be the No. 1 mistake of many good solo artists: he doesn't play alone. Nothing undermines great talent like an album of one-track pieces. Even if the artist is great, I find it can often get boring listening to one instrument alone for 20 songs. Haynie plays a mean fiddle and mandolin, but does so with a host of other musicians. Almost all of the songs are backed by guitar, banjo or dobro and bass. The backing artists do a really great job backing and highlighting Haynie's music.

The tunes on this album are quite varried, and for the most part very successful. I think that "Creek's a Risin'" is a great tune to start with, it sets a fun, fast-paced tone and features Haynie on both the fiddle and mandolin. I wouldn't hazard even a stab at which Haynie plays better; he is really fast and very clean on both instruments, with an excellent, rhythmic style. "Creek's a Risin'" is also one of the many tunes that Haynie has written on the album, and again, I have no complaints. Haynie's writing seems to be of the same caliber as his playing: really, really enjoyable. The tone to the album is somewhat varied; there are some slow songs like "Song for Stacy" (Haynie's wife) and some more fast ones, like the cheerful "Happy Go Lucky." I also really enjoyed the flamenco styling in "Thonotosassa," which features some really excellent fast picking on the mandolin. The last of the really standout pieces in my books is "Yeehaw Junction" -- firstly, I must admit, because the name made me giggle, but once I listened I was really impressed by the sort of dueling the piece sets up between the mandolin and banjo.

To be fair, I should try to offer some constructive criticism, but I don't have much to say. The only area of the album I have anything remotely negative to say about are the vocal tracks, but they are good in their own way. There are only four vocal tracks on the sixteen-track album, and they are all well done -- they are just not my style at all. They lean more towards traditional country, and I have never been a fan of country songs or singing styles. If you like country, this is not a problem at all, and even if you aren't a fan of country, I don't think it's that big a deal -- you can skip them and it is still a solid album. If you do like country singing, then these songs are a great addition and flesh out the album nicely.

I think that it is pretty clear that my mind is made up about A Man Must Carry On. This is a well-done country/bluegrass album with, I think, a much wider appeal than just a contry and bluegrass audience. If you get the chance, give Aubrey Haynie and few minutes of your time, and I guarantee that you'll want to offer him your ear for even longer.

[ by Kristy Tait ]
Rambles: 13 April 2002

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