The troubled history of Roky Erickson has been well-documented in the past, especially in the touching You’re Going to Miss Me documentary. However, the last few years have seen a resurgence for the famed singer, and he returns now accompanied by another local act, Okkervil River. But, you can put all that business aside right now, and turn your focus to what a phenomenal listening experience you will have listeninig to True Love Cast Out All Evil.
We get a brief glimpse into the history of Roky as the album opens with “Devotional Number One,” which is a field recording from his time spent at Rusk State Hospital. There’s an eeriness to the recording, but his voice is so warm, yet so fragile that you can’t help yourself from falling into this song.
Listening to this record over and over again, the first track that really hits you is “Goodbye Sweet Dreams.” There are flourishes of orchestral work in the background, which you can leave at the foot of Will Sheff who manned production. But, when Roky says “don’t leave me now/my love does not too bright burn” you get a hint at the soul of a man who no longer wants to be left on his own. You can’t look away from him now, or I suppose turn a deaf ear.
As the record progresses you’ll notice that no longer is this a man delving into psychadelic rock; he’s gone completely country, and it’s so heart-felt that he’s bound to receive accolades left and right. “Be and Bring Me Home” has that countryfied warble to it, and light touches of piano only emphasize the voice that much more. “Please, Judge” is a wonderfully soft-spoken ballad that relies more upon the imagery of Erikson, and while the lyrics aren’t first person, you can’t help but feel a litlte bit of the singer inside. You can even hear a few squalls of noise throughout, making it all more than just a mere country ballad.
What’s great about this record is that even though it stays in one place (the country) you still get some rockers out of True Love Cast Out All Evil. “Bring Back the Past” is a pretty upbeat number, even when supplied with a bit of a Nashville stomp. It fits perfectly with “John Lawman,” though the latter has a much more devilish undertone. Feedback lies beneath the lyrics “I kill people all day long,” chasing the lyrics throughout the entirety of the song. It’s one of the most spectacluar live numbers too, as you can hear the scratchiness and emotion of Roky behind the mic.
Closing the record, we return to the intimate setting of Mr. Erickson. “Birds’d Crash” is a slow burner using vocals and a ringing guitar line to really flesh out the song. For me, I just love his approach to writing lyrics, and the clarity of his voice is incredible throughout the whole of the album. To bookend it all, we find ourselves with another field recording. Listen closely to this one, as its an awful bit quieter than the album’s opener, but in putting your ear close to the speaker, you get to end the album in Roky’s world.
As an album, it’s remarkable how seamlessly True Love Cast Out All Evil really is. You have to credit Will Sheff for not really putting his stamp on the album, instead choosing to let Roky Erickson do all the work on his own, with just a little help from his friends. It all points to one thing: Roky is back, and with a record like this, we’re all entirely grateful to have him here again.
Download: Roky Erickson & Okkervil River – Goodbye Sweet Dreams [MP3]