Although I play some string-band gigs (contra dances, etc.), most of my performances feature the banjo backing my voice in a variety of different styles. It's not unusual to hear a mix of folk, bluegrass, blues, and rock in our shows...
Where I truly leave the realm of "old timey" banjo lies in my extensive use of chords in my lead solos and while backing up other musicians (or my voice). As far back as twenty years ago, I'd already envisioned how I wanted to use clawhammer banjo in a newgrass band setting, in this case my old "Powder Ridge" band; most of my time was (and still is) spent playing chordal based based backups:
I try to keep an open minded approach to the banjo by exploring, and incorporating, every technique I stumble upon. Here's an example of how I might handle a solo vocal piece. Note my use of brushes followed by "skips", and the rhythmic techniques I use to create variety while playing this way:
Another example exploring a variety of techniques on an original piece inspired by multiple musical genres:
I'll end off with Rosewood playing an original by our band's resident songwriter, Shaundra Cragun. Notice that my style of play has changed very little since I recorded the first example over thirty years ago...
If there's one thing I hope my music and instructional materials accomplish, it's to inspire other clawhammer banjo players to try their hand at playing music that they might otherwise shy away from...
- Mike Iverson
P.S. My favorite feature in this "Progressive Clawhammer" section, and the one that I feel is the most important, is a survey that I had each of the featured artists fill out. It contains all sorts of information about banjo styles, technique, instrument setup, and anything else I could think of that might be of interest to banjoists. Here's a link to the questionnaire:
Clawhammer Illuminations: insightful answers to banjo related questions provided by Perlman, Johnson, Balch, Miles, and Iverson.