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