Dowling tackles areas often untapped in banjo books. Firstly, the section on backup means the player is better equipped for jamming but is positioned in the book so a couple of tunes are already learned. Likewise, the theory section is placed early enough to make advanced playing easier but not before the player has had the fun of starting to play.
Blackberry Blossom is then used to show the differing right hand (sorry picking hand!) styles and, of all tunes, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star shows the application of harmony. While this might not be the most obviously inspiring tune for the aspiring banjoist, it's an excellent tune to show some complicated theory and the player then has the excitement of applying it to a bluegrass classic in John Hardy.
More common weaknesses are tackled in sections on playing in different keys, variations, arrangement and improvisation. So are there any weaknesses to the book? One quibble – a misprint near the start on the fretting hand instructions where it says T for thumb instead of L for little but the pupil will probably clock it when the tabs come. The picky might also say tunes such as Twinkle Twinkle and Good King Wenceslas are not the most inspiring but as mentioned above they are effective tools in demonstrating complex techniques. But overall, this is an excellent guide to both the basics and advanced techniques to bring the banjo that variation that makes players like Dowling so exciting. As Dowling says on the last page – 'let's ensure the banjo has a diverse and prolific future'. If you're a finger picker, this book is the best place to start.