Mike IversonMusic, clawhammer banjo, and more...

Music, clawhammer banjo, and more...

Debut of the new Blue Sage Band...

For years I’ve been trying to promote the idea of introducing clawhammer banjo into genres of music where it has never been heard before. I am now ready to “practice what I preach” and put the banjo front and center by tackling much more ambitious music on this instrument in my “live” performances.

Jake Album Pics 008
On August 13th I will be debuting a new lineup of amazing musicians in the Blue Sage Band which will help me accomplish my dream...

I am honored to have such great players as Rob Ricks, Jake Workman, and Ken Sager willing to join me and my family in a special concert headlining the Weber County Fair on their grandstand stage this coming Saturday evening. We will be exploring a blend of bluegrass, rock, folk, blues, western, and jazz music, as well as introducing some original compositions.

Here are the details:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

8:00 to 9:30 pm

Weber County Fairgrounds - Grandstand Stage
1000 North 1200 West
Ogden UT 84404

For more Info visit the
Weber Co. Fair Website or call (801)399-8798
Email: sskeen@co.weber.ut.us

Don’t miss what may very well be the first performance of a “newgrass” band fronted by a clawhammer banjo player!




A Good Time To Head South...

While the folks back home were dealing with torrential downpours, my family and I were having a great time enjoying the Torrey Cowboy Music & Poetry Festival and the incredible scenery of Capital Reef National Park. What could be better than four days of music, hiking and Utah's red rock country?

Brenn & Mike
We started off Memorial Day weekend at the Torrey Cowboy Music & Poetry Festival where I had the honor of backing Brenn Hill for a few songs at the end of his set Friday evening. It continued to get better as I reacquainted myself with old friends and made new some ones on Saturday. Blue Sage was joined by our good friend Ken Sager on mandolin for our set on Saturday night and the folks of Torrey were more than appreciative.

Crack Canyon
The day after the festival ended, we headed a little North East of Torrey to do some exploring around Goblin Valley. We started off by hiking a slot canyon (Crack Canyon), which turned out to be the perfect match for our abilities; if it were any tougher we might not have been able to make it back out again!

Goblin Valley
After Crack Canyon, we headed south to Goblin Valley. I guess it's officially called "The Valley Of The Goblins", but everyone who grew up in Utah calls it "Goblin Valley". We found ourselves in some of the most fascinating geography found anywhere on Earth.

All in all it was a perfect weekend with great music, great folks, great festival, and great hiking in the spectacular country found in Southern Utah's backcountry...


Master Artist... Steve Johnson

Last night I had the pleasure of providing some background music for one of the venues featured in the First Fridays Art Stroll held in downtown Ogden.

The Timberlodge Collection (2214 Washington Boulevard) managed to get hold of a significant number of master artist Steve Johnson’s paintings to hang for the “stroll” and had asked Steve for some ideas for music; my name came up...

During the course of the night, a number of old friends dropped by. At one point in the evening I spotted Dale Pendleton, who will soon be ninety, dancing with one of his granddaughters! He’d stopped by to give me a CD he’d recorded. As a young man, Dale had learned a number of his dad’s fiddle tunes exactly as his father played them; double stops and all. This is a real treasure as it’s the equivalent of having a tape player running a hundred years ago at a dance up in Wanship or Coalville. I’m hoping Heather will learn some (if not all) of these tunes just as Dale’s father played them.

A very nice evening spent with good folks and with great art showcased in the perfect setting. If you’re not familiar with Steve Johnson’s work visit his website, or better yet, drop by the Timberlodge while Steve’s art is still hanging and see it for yourself!


Just how stressful can 45 seconds be?

Two stressful gigs in one week!

First the Thursday show with Brenn Hill, and then yesterday morning I received a call from a wedding in need of a solo mandolinist. Apparently the bride’s only request was the theme from the movie “Corelli’s Mandolin” to use as her processional music. I was tempted to pass on this gig but knew they wouldn’t be able to find another mandolinist at the last minute and I didn’t want to let down the bride.

St Joseph
I downloaded the song and proceeded to transcribe the piece. I soon realized I might be in over my head; a meter that kept shifting between 6/4 and 4/4, difficult fingerings, and a melody that bordered on the atonal. I arrived at St. Joseph’s this morning, set up my Fishman solo amp (which is an awesome small PA system), and slipped into a back room to practice. It didn’t help my confidence that the prelude music was being nailed by a great string quartet, a fabulous organist was following me, and the person who booked me (the brother of the bride) plays for the Utah Symphony!

Fortunately the Lord took pity on the bride and helped me get through the song without any noticeable mistakes. Her brother made my day when he told me the bride broke into tears when she heard my mandolin!. I told him that a miracle had just taken place and was considering converting to Catholicism!

I know this type of gig helps me grow as a musician, but it gives me a few new grey hairs each time I take one on...

Playing Bella's with Brenn...

What a night! Good crowd, good food, and (hopefully) good music. Brenn’s fans came out in mass for this show at Bella’s Mexican Grill and set the stage for an intimate evening where we received as much as we gave. It was great seeing so many familiar faces in the audience.

Brenn Hill
I was actually pretty nervous about this show as Brenn was having some vocal issues and his doctor recommended lowering the pitch of his songs. To accomplish this, Brenn dropped the tuning of his guitar down a whole step. That left me scrambling to relearn the songs. The bluegrass banjo and guitar songs were easy; just a move of the capo. The mandolin required learning the songs in new keys and I had to take some of the clawhammer tunes into completely new tunings! Considering all the changes, we managed to get the job done. Of course it helps to have great material to work with and Brenn’s songs are among the best I’ve ever heard.

I’m looking forward to our next show...