Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roky Erickson Exorcises His Demons One More Time


This week's release of True Love Cast Out All Evil is simply an event to be heralded: a true musical genius given a chance to shine on his own terms after a career spanning decades which included two forced vacations into mental institutions and hundreds of LSD trips--and some timeless music. The teenager who belted out (and wrote) "You're Gonna Miss Me", one of the most ferocious songs ever, is now a senior citizen who has emerged from his long strange trip stronger than dirt. I had written previously about Roky's amazing comeback all but begged a good label to pick him up, and I am so glad Anti stepped up to the plate, and with Roky's help, hit it out of the park! It seems Anti has their shit together---signing up great old farts like Mose Allison, Tom Waits, Betty LaVette and Booker T---folks that still have great music in them. Roky is no exception, and the swell guys at Anti even give you two free mp3s to prove it! You can get them right here.

Now I'll admit the first time I heard "Be and Bring Me Home" it sort of sounded like country Billy Joel with its piano and fake strings, chimes and mandolins. "Suddenly I'm not sick," Roky sings in a moment of self realization on the longest track on the LP. Its an a redemptive anthem, a bit overproduced, but still a powerful song. The other mp3 Anti's giving away is just a scorching rocker that wouldn't have been been out of place on my favorite Roky LP, the one with the Aliens on CBS. "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" could have really been torn up by the Aliens with Billy Miller splashing his autoharp all over it, but this Austin band Okkervill River who back up Roky still get a few points for their performance on this one. Unfortunately, I haven't got a chance to listen to the rest of the LP except for the 30 sec bits on Amazon, but those clips point to a vision that is unique, a voice that has something to say. You stare into Roky's eyes on the cover of his new LP and it's like you are looking into his soul. Even before the 13th Floor Elevators, Roky sang "we sell soul", and now he's doing it again, 45 years later!

It must have been a terrifying experience being subjected to shock treatment and confined to Rusk, and spooky sounding recordings from those years do appear with these newly recorded tunes. "God is Everywhere" indeed! Roky's life has been far from rosy, but the strange beauty of his music still holds its sense of wonder. Soaked in its Texas roots, True Love Cast Out All Evil is a career defining LP and a loud statement that Roky Erickson is the real deal. Roky may have shed his demons but his creative fires are still burning bright.

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