True Love Cast Out All Evil

Roky Erickson & Okkervil River

Anti, 2010

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


There are survivors, and then there is Roky Erickson.

Roky Erickson left a lasting mark on the American music scene as the vocalist/leader/songwriter of the seminal garage/psychedelic band The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. While their single “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was the closest they would come to a hit song (and that only reached number 55 on The Billboard Magazine Hot 100 Charts in August of 1966), their music was covered by and influenced such groups as ZZ Top, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Primal Scream, R.E.M., plus provided some of the seeds for the ‘70s punk movement. The group disbanded during 1969 after a short and tumultuous career.

Erickson’s life journey during the past four decades has been one of pain, insanity, comebacks – and, ultimately, redemption. Severe drug use led to his arrest and entering an insanity plea in court. The then-22 year old was sentenced to the Rusk Maximum Security Prison for the criminally insane, where he underwent shock treatment. Upon his release, he initiated several comebacks but spent a decade secluded away reading junk mail and playing the radio at full volume so as to drown out the voices. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As the 2000’s progressed, his health improved due to a regimen of new prescription drugs. He reunited with his family and began making appearances in the Austin area, which led to a relationship with Will Sheff, lead singer and songwriter of Okkervil River.

This resulted in Sheff being asked to produce an album and being mailed three discs containing sixty songs written by Erickson during the past forty years. These unreleased tracks were written for The Elevators, while at Rusk Prison, at his mother’s home, and with his prior group The Aliens. Twelve were selected for Erikson’s first studio album in over a decade.

“Devotional Number One” and “God Is Everywhere” were kept in their original form and are the first and last tracks. They provide an understanding of some key points during his life. The first is a gentle yet in some ways chilling treatise of psychedelic Christianity. The last finds him regaining life and hopefully finding redemption.

The new studio tracks travel an eclectic road, embracing embrace a number of styles such as garage rock, hard rock, country, and what can be called Texas folk.

Erikson does not avoid his past but faces the pain with what is ultimately optimism and hope. “Be And Bring Me Home” is a long autobiographical song of his journey toward health. “Bring Back The Past” proves that he still has an ear for melody after all these years, while “Please Judge” is his musical confrontation with his incarceration.

Through it all, Erikson remains a lyricist of note. In his songs, he tells his stories and confronts his demons. His tenor voice may not be of the caliber of his Thirteenth Floor Elevators days, but it is honest and passionate. The accompanying booklet contains a complete biography and wisely includes the lyrics to the songs.

Hopefully, Roky Erickson will continue his journey of recovery and contentment and there will be no need for another comeback.

Rating: B+

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