With A Man Must Carry On, fiddler Aubrey Haynie once again demonstrates the elasticity of tradition; the title refers to personal grief as well as the weight of an artistic and familial legacy.
An in-demand Nashville session player, Haynie pushes bluegrass tastefully into the 21st century with his own music while mining the rich inspirations of tradition and family. Man glows with an even higher polish, and it comes across as a more thoughtfully evolved statement than his stunning debut, 1997's Doin' My Time.
Haynie wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 16 songs, and they're no mere excuses to show off his flashy chops.
This isn't driving bluegrass, despite swiftly fingered numbers like "Yeehaw Junction" and "Buffalo Gals" (RealAudio excerpt) or "Lakeland," a tightly woven set piece that doesn't sacrifice feeling for fluid virtuosity.
One of the most moving is "Song for Stacy" (RealAudio excerpt), written for his wife. The title song is a sweet anthem by a son who's now a father.
Haynie plays mandolin with jazzy flair on "Happy Go Lucky," and he experiments with interesting percussion lines for "Thonotosassa" and the somewhat dramatic "Gone to Ferrum" (RealAudio excerpt).
His subtle work for "Can I Get an Amen," a lovely country ballad sung by Tim Mensy (co-author with Music Row tunesmith Allen Shamblin), nicely showcases his ability to complement other artists. But even with a handful of wish-list vocalists Tim O'Brien, Ronnie Bowman, Carl Jackson it's Haynie's fiddle that sings loudest, in mature, confident tones.