John Trudell is a Native American songwriter/poet, and an outspoken activist for human rights and environmental issues. AKA GRAFITII MAN showcases his remarkable spoken-word brand of rock & roll, praised by musicians such as Peter Garrett, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, and Jackson Browne.
In the mid-80’s, Trudell came together with legendary Kiowa Indian guitarist Jesse Ed Davis and formed Grafitti Man; their first cassette, AKA GRAFITTI MAN, was produced in 1985. While the tape was sold only by mail order, a copy reached Bob Dylan, who called it “album of the year” and played it over the PA before concerts.
Following Davis’ death, Trudell enlisted guitarist Mark Shark as the musical backbone of Grafitti Man; the band spent part of 1988 touring the US with Midnight Oil.
AKA GRAFITTI MAN includes material dating back to Trudell’s work with Jesse Ed Davis and the cassette of the same name; as well as more recent material, much of which was co-produced by Jackson Browne, who also serves as the album’s Executive Producer.
The album features Trudell’s powerful personal and political statements, as well as his method of incorporating indigenous themes and musical traditions into a rock context.
“AKA Grafitti Man will shake you up and make you dance; it challenges your commitment to justice, and above all else, it rocks. (4 stars – Excellent) – ROLLING STONE
“A spell-binding performer… One of this year’s bravest albums. (Disc of the Month)” –CD REVIEW
John Trudell might never make an album as intense and confrontational as AKA Grafitti Mall, but that doesn’t mean he’s run out of things to say. While he’s still very actively involved in Native American causes, as “Crazy Horse” shows, he’s cast his net of words wider, with expressions of love and lust, the sensual textures of words and relationships, the isolation of a woman in “Nothing In Her Eyes.” But he’s at his very best when he’s angry, which makes “Hanging From the Cross,” with the lines “Indians are Jesus/hanging from the cross” particularly powerful.
Though he no longer had the late Jesse Ed Davis as his main instrumental foil -longtime collaborator Mark Shark plays a mean guitar on many tracks (and electric sitar on “Lucky Motel”) Billy Watts also shows himself very capable on the electric six-sting, especially on the out-of-control coda to “Nothing In Her Eyes,” a track that works particularly well, building slowly, adding tension until its spirals crazily, leading into the quiet ache of “Doesn’t Hurt Anymore.” Trudell remains a hypnotic speaker, with an impeccable feel for flow and the sound of words. He’s allowed the musical palette of his songs to develop, using more background vocals to echo his speech, as on “Sorry Love” and “Undercurrent.” Inevitably Quiltman’s traditional singing powers each track and guitars still carry the weight of the music, but keyboards also get more of a look in throughout the album, and mandolin and sitar even show their faces. This time around, Trudell sounds like a man who’s come to sad terms with life – and death. And that means being able to go on and make more music. – Chris Nickson
Daemon Artist Combines Poetry With Music On ‘Bone Days’
by Jim Bessman
NEW YORK – John Trudell’s unique mix of poetry and Native American traditional music is hard to categorize-especially for Trudell himself.
“In practical reality, it’s spoken word with music behind it,” says Trudell, a deeply compelling artist who emerged from many years of hardcore political activism in 1982 with his initial release, Tribal Voice. “But I really don’t have a description for it.”
This isn’t to say, though, that Trudell’s music is hopelessly indescribable. On his new Daemon album, Bone Days, his intensely delivered recitations are backed by his band Bad Dog’s ethereal guitars and given heightened otherworldly power by the traditional Native American vocal chants of the band member known as Quiltman. Continue reading “Review of ‘Bone Days’ – Billboard Magazine”
Words and poetry of John Trudell’s latest material is sung, arranged, and played by Trudell’s Bad Dog guitarist mark Shark.
While Trudell’s modus operandi of performance is spoken word, Shark successfully translates that verbalization into lyric and song. There’s a heavy country accent with shades of Tom Petty and Jackson Browne.
As the title suggests, much of the material concentrates on love and the heart, but there’s an artistic and technical side that shines. Many guitarists can play the slide guitar, but very few play it well and Shark performs with an ease, passion and maturity that represents pure artistry.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Like Public Enemy’s seething contempt for an unjust social order or Midnight Oil’s attacks on institutional usurpers of the human spirit and the environment, John Trudell’s AKA Grafitti Man (Rykodisc) is simultaneously angry and compassionate, disarming in its acute cultural analysis and satisfying at every juncture.
Rock may be snoring on its laurels, but the Sioux Indian poet, former American Indian Movement (AIM) leader, and film and recording artist awakens the rock form and the listener by blending traditional Indian drumming with his band’s rock assault. Like the talking bluesmen before him, Trudell confronts subjects ranging from the tender to the wicked. The poetic strategy that originated with Trudell and executive producer ] Jackson Browne is realized by a band featuring guitarist Mark Shark, whose riveting guitar work underscores Trudell’s spoken songs. Continue reading “Review of ‘AKA Grafitti Man’ – Request Magazine”
AKA GRAFITTI MAN, by Native American poet John Trudell, is a protest record, but not of the usual variety.
Trudell employs basic rock, blues, traditional indigenous music, street shuffles and folk songs to craft a compelling hybrid that encompasses many viewpoints and visions of reality. His politics call for expansiveness and evolution rather than revolution. The result is a moving, shape-shifting, rock & roll treatise on the state of the world. Continue reading “Review of “AKA Grafitti Man” – Rolling Stone”