Album Review: True Love Cast Out All Evil by Roky Erickson With Okkervil River
Excellent, Based on 13 Critics
AllMusic - 90 Based on rating 9/10
One of the most remarkable things about Roky Erickson’s collaboration with Okkervil River, 2010’s True Love Cast Out All Evil, is the simple fact it exists at all. The story of Erickson’s long struggle to regain his physical and mental health has been told often enough by now, and even after making a nearly miraculous recovery and returning to the concert stage sounding strong, fiery, and confident, it was anyone's guess if Erickson still had a good record left in him. Thankfully, Erickson’s manager, Darren Hill, had the idea of pairing Erickson with Okkervil River in the studio, and the match proved to be both surprising and inspired.
Less than a decade ago it was almost inconceivable that Biblically troubled Texas singer/songwriter Roky Erickson would ever return to playing music, let alone do much of anything. While many before him have navigated the dark waters of drug abuse, mental illness, and poverty, very few have resurrected themselves quite as miraculously as Erickson has. With his personal rehabilitation complete, Erickson returned to the stage in 2006 and last year collaborated with the hyper-literate troubadours in Okkervil River on his first studio recordings in over 14 years.
Roky Erickson could certainly be forgiven for putting out a depressing record. Hell, his long list of troubles -- with drugs, with mental illness, with the law, with family custody battles -- qualifies him for a good 10 records of darkness. But despite that black-and-white cover, with the 65-year-old Erickson's face cast in shadow, True Love Cast Out All Evil isn't a depressing record, not by a long shot.
When Will Sheff, lead singer of Texas’s Okkervil River, took on the task of producing an album for one his state's great, emblematic musical figures, he was handed a catalogue of over 60 demos, of songs written over the past few decades of Roky Erikson’s life, career, and battle with mental illness. To have whittled them down to 12, and be charged with the task of reworking this important archive for public consumption, was a job akin to restoring a lost work of art, or turning a series of letters and diaries into a coherent life story. In short, Sheff had to act as Erickson’s biographer.
The sounds that break Roky Erickson’s 14-year silence as a solo performer are the hiss and crackle of a prison reel-to-reel followed by a few shaky chords and Erickson’s lyrical devotion to God. Culled from songs written throughout his 45-year career and backed by fellow Austinites Okkervil River, True Love is at times haunting and ecstatic, memorializing Erickson’s long history while swaggering into a shaggy kind of hope. MARTY GARNER .
Pleading sanity Roky Erickson, the famously broken Austin, Texas pysch-rock pioneer, has occasionally sent back transmissions from the strange lands to which he wandered after much electric Kool-Aid and forced electroshock. His last semi-lucid album, 1995’s All That May Do My Rhyme, found him spirited but toned down. Now, the man who cried alien completes his re-entry to earth.
Roky Erickson has been a lot of things in his lengthy career: howling psych-rocker, LSD advocate, spiritual quester, mental hospital patient, drug-war casualty, junk-mail collector, sci-fi aficionado, self-proclaimed alien, cult icon. Before he was any of that, though, he was a Texan. Sources vary on where he was born-- some say Dallas, others Austin-- but he has spent virtually all his life in the Lone Star State.
Helmed by an adoring local fan and fronted by a fallen ‘60s star many times through the wringer, True Love Cast Out All Evil seems poised to fall into a formulaic rut of middling expectations, wrenching cathartic redemption songs from decades of anguish. Yet Roky Erickson, despite a voice that has turned as thick and gummy as molasses, remains a self-possessed songwriter, and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff is far too savvy a compiler and producer to steer this project toward hammy cliché. Narrowing down 60 tracks to 12 over a spry but substantial 40 minutes, the album eschews recovery sentimentalism while pointing Erickson’s career back in the right direction.
Considering his dramatic personal history — one rife with drug mishaps, electro-shock therapy, and crippling mental disease — a new album from Roky Erickson is nothing short of a miracle. You’re Gonna Miss Me, the 2005 documentary of Erickson’s life, raised his profile considerably, a human interest story that appealed to more than just record geeks and psych enthusiasts. True Love Casts Out All Evil, Erickson’s collaboration with Will Sheff and his Texas band Okkervil River, is a record as much for those newcomers as it is for old fans — it offers a sense of calm and resolution to the film’s hesitantly optimistic end, while carefully referencing Erickson’s difficult road and musical past.
First things first: after all the troubles he's had, no one would begrudge Roky Erickson a comeback, especially one backed by a band as supple as Okkervil River. The result of his collaboration with his fellow Texans is an album that stands up in a way his last effort, 1995's All That May Do My Rhyme, really didn't. John Lawman is a blistering piece of motorik; Bring Back the Past breezes by in an attractively Byrdsy fashion; Please, Judge is Erickson revisiting his incarceration in a mental institution, and all the more moving for it.
ROKY ERIKSON with OKKERVIL RIVER True Love Cast Out All Evil (ANTI-) Rating: When Okkervil River’s Will Sheff was tasked with producing the first record from legendarily tragic psych-rock figure Roky Erickson, it wasn’t enough for him to create just a comeback record: He set out to make the definitive Roky Erickson record. Whittling a pile of over 60 songs written over 40 years down to 12 tracks that tell the story of Erickson’s trials and redemption, Sheff compiled an album that reads like a biography and plays like a movie. True Love Cast Out All Evil opens with a dusty, found recording of Erickson from the early ’70s, when he was locked in an asylum for the criminally insane.
60s legend and indie neighbours combine to deeply moving effect. Rob Hughes 2010 Calling Roky Erickson a survivor is a gross understatement. In fact, given his often harrowing past, it’s a wonder he’s still here at all. Erickson was the singer/songwriter/guitarist in Texan acid-punks The 13th Floor Elevators, frequently cited as the first truly psychedelic band of the 60s.
MELISSA ETHERIDGE “Fearless Love” (Island) Every week on “American Idol” this season, the young roots singer Crystal Bowersox puts on a bravado vocal display, and every week she leaves unanswered the question of how exactly her sound might matter outside the confines of the competition. “Idol” hasn’t reliably generated pop stars on a scale equal to the popularity of the show, but agents within the record business, handed these anointed if unfocused singers, have done their best to squeeze them into familiar paradigms: country queen, blue-eyed soul diva, blunt-force-trauma rocker. Ms.