Kevin Lewis

Ceremonial Songs and Dances of the Cherokee

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This artist has been part of several comprehensive and tremendously enjoyable collections of Native American songs from different tribes. This was the first volume in his Cherokee series, and it is a winner. Kevin Lewis is a Cherokee/Navajo medicine man, as well as performer, or perhaps the two disciplines are intertwined. The sound of his voice hovers on the edge of a falsetto at times, sometimes almost seeming fragile as it undertakes delicate rhythmic twists and turns of phrase. For the listener, it is good medicine indeed. He is accompanied only by percussion, and one assumes there is another performer playing this beautiful accompaniment, although no one is identified. It could be Millard Clark, who produced this recording and also owns the label itself. The Cherokee rhythms are quite interesting. The playing on the normal Indian drum is incredibly light, almost more of a visual signal. The set of "Four Marriage Songs" introduces some kind of shakers, perhaps gourds, that sound good enough to eat. Since these shakers sometimes utilize animal teeth or bones, one might be able to say someone already did. The rhythm on these pieces is tantalizing, involving a complex repetition of rapidly moving triplets. Intensity builds on the second side with its "22 Black Star Songs," presented in a series with almost no interruption. The percussion is sharply recorded, and the vocal performance of Lewis is some of his best work. The songs are divided according to different themes, an overview of which gives the impression the Cherokee had their heads in the right place. Unfortunately, they were forced to leave that place. North Carolina would have been a lot better off with more Cherokee influence, and less Jesse Helms.

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