Johnny Kee | Echoes from the Trail

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Spiritual: Hymns Spiritual: Country Gospel Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Echoes from the Trail

by Johnny Kee

This CD commemorates the Cherokee "Trail of Tears" with 12 songs from the Cherokee Hymn Book, the first book published in the Cherokee syllabary back in 1828. The Cherokee lyrics are sung to well known tunes, accompanied by flutes, guitars, banjo, etc.
Genre: Spiritual: Hymns
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Hymn 128: In the Sweet by and By
3:44 $0.99
2. Hymn 134: Old Rugged Cross
6:53 $0.99
3. Hymn 142: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
4:08 $0.99
4. Hymn 38: Nearer My God to Thee
3:51 $0.99
5. Hymn 87: Just a Closer Walk with Thee
3:55 $0.99
6. Hymn 94: My Faith Looks up to Thee
4:25 $0.99
7. Hymn 93: Rock of Ages
5:37 $0.99
8. Hymn 39: I'll Fly Away
3:44 $0.99
9. Hymn 17: What a Friend We Have in Jesus
5:02 $0.99
10. Hymn 35: Silent Night
4:14 $0.99
11. Hymn 87: Amazing Grace
4:29 $0.99
12. Hymn 9: Softly and Tenderly
4:45 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Johnny Kee's first "performance" music was in the children's choir at the old North Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee, back in the mid '50s. By the early '60s he had is first guitar and came of age musically in the so-called folk music revival, helping form a trio called the Bayou Brothers. Since then he has added a number of other instruments to his performances, including 5-string banjo, autoharp, and (most recently) the Native American style flute. The core of his musical interest has always been folk, blues, and spiritual music.

Johnny first became aware of his Cherokee heritage through a class genealogy project in junior high school. Each class member was tasked with tracing their family tree with emphasis on the race/nationality of their ancestors. The results were turned into a color-coded chart showing the diversity of backgrounds in the class. His mother told how her great grandfather traveled the "Trail of Tears" west, but his family "deserted" the group to settle in southwestern Missouri, where she and her son Johnny were born.

While visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC decades ago, Johnny was fascinated by a reproduction of the old Cherokee Hymn Book, originally published in 1828 as the first book printed in the Cherokee syllabary (the written Cherokee language). But interpreting those songs was beyond him until the museum printed a revised version in 2014 that identified a tune to go with each song. He immediately bought a copy and the idea for this CD was born.

This CD is Johnny's first commercial album, and blends most of his musical interests with those of his heritage. The CD commemorates the forced removal of the Cherokee people in 1838-39 from their homelands in the east to distant Indian Territory, present-day eastern Oklahoma. The first European visitors to Cherokee country in pre-colonial times were trappers and missionaries. So, by the time the Cherokee were rounded up and forced into hastily constructed stockades in 1838, many had converted to Christianity. And missionaries who moved among them in the stockades and on the trail converted others. Since the first Cherokee Hymn Book was published almost a decade before the trail, it is said that its songs were sung many times during that brutal winter, especially where small groups stopped briefly to bury their loved ones. At least 4000 people, fully one fourth of the tribe, died in the stockades or on the trail - giving the "removal" the name it is remembered by today: The Trail of Tears.

On this CD, Johnny has chosen 12 of the songs from the most recent version of the Cherokee Hymn Book for his unique folksy interpretation. The tunes are well-known and loved hymns and gospel songs. Each has its lyrics sung in Cherokee, accompanied by Johnny's guitars (6- and 12- and nylon strings), banjo, autoharp, and Native American style flutes, along with a couple percussion instruments. The Cherokee lyrics are not translations of the familiar English hymns, but independently created Cherokee poems that are sung to the popular tunes.

Each song has at least one segment with flute solos and/or duets. All are performed with flutes that Johnny made at Turtle Mound Flutes. He also made the nylon-string guitar and hand drums that you'll hear.

No description of this CD would be complete without recognition for Joyce Bugaiski, a talented artist and dear friend, who created the beautiful cover and label art. The scene depicted captures the mood for the commemoration, a small group gathered around a shallow roadside grave as the main body moves off in the distance. Standing over the grave is a mourner playing his flute.



to write a review

Michael Mathewson

Echos of Relaxation
Great CD. The singing, music, guitar and flute with great rhythms are all spot on. Very relaxing to listen to. Highly recommended.

Joyce Bugaiski

Beautiful and enlightening
I've listened to this CD multiple times now and each time I feel a greater connection to the musician and the culture. This CD is a beautiful collection of well known hymns sung in the Cherokee language. I love the different instruments played throughout. The Cherokee language is not an easy language to speak or learn.

I love this CD! It's a toe tapping, humming along happy collection of music we all know and love.

I like the cover too.

This would make a wonderful gift and great addition to anyone's musical collection.

Ken Holt

Johnny Kee hits a home run with his native American flute.
Johnny Kee is one of those artists who doesn't give up and keeps at his craft until the vision is completely realized. How so? First he makes his own flutes out of exotic and native trees. That's right, hand carved. What you will hear on this CD is organic to it's roots. The nylon string guitar you hear playing those sweet melodies also comes from his workshop. The vocals, both lead and harmony parts are his own. What he does borrow are the traditional hymn melodies, sung in Cherokee, from the original Cherokee hymnbook..This recording is an accomplishment that, to my knowledge, has never been done before. For sweetening, Johnny Kee adds a little banjo and autoharp. IF you appreciate those melodies your momma used to sing, orchestrated in a completely original way, and founded in the historical context of the Trail of Tears (explained on the inside cover), THEN this is 15 bucks you won't miss, and well worth every penny.