AKA Grafitti Man
By James Calemine
John Trudell, a Native-American poet, recorded this classic spoken word CD twice. Trudell formed the Grafitti Band with Oklahoma Native-American guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Davis served as Taj Mahal’s guitarist as well as playing with John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Conway Twitty, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and Willie Nelson.
Trudell played a heavy role in Native American politics until 1979, when his wife and children were killed in a fire at their home on the reservation. Twelve hours earlier, Trudell burned an American flag on the steps of the FBI building in Washington, D.C., and he believed the fatal fire was no accident.
The music behind Trudell’s words infuses blues, rock, and Native-American chants that serve as a backdrop to the social landscape of life as a Native American with a voice that resonates with every citizen. Accomplished musicians such as Mike Utley (Dixie Flyers), Kris Kristofferson, Jackson Browne, Bill Payne (Little Feat), Steven Soles (Rolling Thunder Revue), and Chad Cromwell (Neil Young) appear on these 12 songs.
In 1988, Jesse Ed Davis died before this record was complete. Mark Shark inherited guitar duties after Davis’ death. Parts of this collection were re-recorded for the 1992 release that Jackson Browne produced.
Bob Dylan called AKA Grafitti Man the best album of the year. “Rockin’ the Res" opens the CD with an up-tempo beat threaded with cinematic reels of visual images. “Grafitti Man” hinges on a great Davis electric guitar hook. Eight of these compositions were written by Davis and Trudell.
“Restless Situation” illuminates the gravity and scope Elvis Presley’s music left on America and the world, including all the “unrestrained emotion” he inspired. “Baby Boom Che”--a haunting blues riff echoed by a sad Indian mantra lingering in the background as the narrator tells the story of a man and woman going separate ways—remains unforgettable.
“Bombs Over Baghdad”, written with Stark during the Gulf War, eerily resembles our country’s current situation: “Bombs over Baghdad/Dancers of death/Murder in the air/With the next breath/Macho queens/Selling war-maker toys/Raining destruction/Good ol’ boys.”
“Rich Man’s War” proves a slow spoken word blues, uttering truths for every common hardworking man and woman dealing with grave matters of the soul…from Palestine to New York…
“Never Never Blues”, a gritty blues song captures the great spirit of Jesse Ed Davis’ slide guitar genius. John Trudell’s storytelling ranks him as a great American and an undeniable Warrior poet.