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Album review: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River, "True Love Cast Out All Evil"

By Allison Stewart

Three decades ago, around the time Roky Erickson was incarcerated in the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in East Texas, he wrote a bunch of songs: love songs, laments, judge-please-don't-lock-me-up songs. Several of these tracks appear, mostly in newly reconfigured form, on the solid, dignified "True Love Cast Out All Evil," Erickson's new collaboration with Austin band Okkervil River, and his first proper recording in almost 15 years.

LISTEN: "Be and Bring Me Home" - Roky Erickson and Okkervil River

(Not easy, but often rewarding listening, after the jump.)

Erickson, 62, began his career as the teenage frontman of iconic '60s psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators, and cycled through cartoony horror rock and outsider folk before dropping off the grid: "True Love" is as close as he might get to a comeback disc.

Producer (and Okkervil River frontman) Will Sheff works hard to ensure that Erickson, whose struggles with mental illness intensified in the years since he left Rusk, doesn't befall the same fate as, say, Daniel Johnston, the similarly troubled singer-songwriter adopted, and subsequently infantilized, by well-meaning hipster musicians.

Beginning with a revamped version of a crackly, Rusk-era devotional song, "True Love" samples craggy, Willie Nelson-style country ("Birds'd Crash"), all-purpose Americana ("Bring Back the Past") and keening punk ("John Lawman"), with Okkervil River providing backing instrumentals throughout. Some tracks defy classification, like "Please, Judge," a logy ballad pockmarked by a deafening squall of screeching sound effects, feedback-type noises and snippets of television programs. It doesn't make for easy listening, but it's likely as good a representation as any of the noises rattling around inside Erickson's skull.

Recommended tracks: "Goodbye Sweet Dreams," "Be and Bring Me Home"

By David Malitz  |  April 20, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Okkervil River, Roky Erickson  
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