China Sky

China Sky, of course, is a great song written by John Stewart. It was a song that John wrote back in the early 80’s and first released on the Secret Tapes ’86 album. It was later included on the Tanforan cd.

Like many of John’s songs, it was one that he let percolate for many years before he decided he liked it. Of course, most people LOVED it the first time they heard it but that mattered very little to him.

Then, in 2006, two of John’s fans met at the Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp and started playing music together. John August Lee, sometimes known as Triofan, and Fred Grittner. John and Fred are both stellar musicians and very able writers and producers. Fred had produced several very good cd’s of his own songs and John is an accomplished banjo and guitar player. The issue they had was that Fred was in Minnesota and John had just moved to the State of Washington. Fortunately for both, Fred had a very good high speed internet connection and John had a trustworthy truck. John and Fred sent digital files back and forth and, when necessary, John would use the truck to get to Minnesota. The culmination was just several months ago when Fred went to John’s house and they pronounced the baby born. The ‘baby’ is a cd called China Sky. It was first released at this year’s Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp and everyone agrees that it’s now their favorite cd.

There’s a little something for everyone here. John recently wrote that he sometimes bought a cd because there was one song on it that he liked. I’d have to say that there is AT LEAST one song on this cd that everyone is going to LOVE. We all have our favorites and I’m no exception. Fred’s song The Floyd B. Olson Blues was my ringtone for about a year. I can honestly say that I’ve heard it a thousand times and I still love it. John wrote a great jazzy piece that he calls Chocolate Souffle and I’m crazy about it.

Then there are the players. Where do you start? Well, there’s the Kingston Trio- George Grove, Rick Dougherty and Bill Zorn all play on the cd. Trio bassist Paul Gabrielson plays on many songs as does Dave Batti and Steven Donaghey. Josh Reynolds adds ‘zen harmony vocals’ on one track.

Then you get to the songs themselves. Tracks written by Fred. A track written by John. A song written by Travis Edmundson and another co-written by Travis and Allan Shaw. And one from our friend Bill Heilmann. And two from John Stewart.

And the track written by Fred called Where the River Meets the Sea. It’s hard for me to write this. The song was written a few days after the death of John Stewart. Fred sent it to me many times as he was fine tuning it and I kept reassuring him that it was coming along and would be a fine song. In all honestly, I was never able to listen to it. My friend Tom DeLisle, was able to hear it at Camp this year and it moved him so much that he recited the lyrics for the audience at one of the evening shows.

544 words are enough. I’m going to leave you with a song from the cd. It’s a John Stewart song called Long Train of Dreams. It was originally released on the Rocket Roy cd and later on several live releases. John tried to shop the song in Nashville but that’s a whole other story.

The cd is available  for purchase here:

China Sky

and here’s the song:

Long Train Of Dreams


  1. Skip

    Long Train Of Dreams is awesome in flavor and sound. Lyrics make me dream and want to be there. Vocals are mixed a little too far back with consonants missing in places. Instrument mix is very fine, fluid and smooth

  2. Sandra Whitehead

    It made me think of the time oh so many years ago when I heard John for the first time. Great great great guys. Thank you

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