True Love Cast Out All Evil
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There aren't many stories out there that are as tragic and unbelievable as that of Roky Erickson. One of the most influential figures in all of music spanning from a forefather of psychedelia to inspiring rock and metal musicians, Roky is one of those that everyone likes and is ultimately rooting for despite all that has been stacked against him throughout the years. To say that this album has been one of the most anticipated albums for me would indeed be an understatement. I love anything and everything that Roky Erickson ever uttered, from the psychedelic staples of the 13th Floor Elevators to the dark, horror-rock from the 1970's. They are all prime cuts as far as I am concerned and I was always sure that he had more tricks up his sleeve and lots more stories to tell. Well, low and behold the time has come and True Love Cast Out All Evil has lived up to everything that I hoped it would, representing a better life that Erickson has always been destined for and finally receiving.
Produced by Will Sheff of Okkervil River, this album is quite somber at times, but ultimately beautiful and anthemic, celebrating many selections from the catalog of a man who is one of the best and yet forgotten songwriters, musicians, and human beings in the history of rock and roll music. Though I hate to make this comparison, this album is highly reminiscent of all of Johnny Cash's American Recordings with Rick Ruben at the helm. Like the American Recordings, True Love Cast Out All Evil is stripped down and somewhat sparse at times, leaving the focus on Roky and his songs without layering obnoxious orchestrations and wanking guitar solos over the song at hand. As a whole, this album has a strong country feel to it, the majority being acoustic in nature with Erickson's voice not as strong and wailing like it once was. Will Sheff and Okkervil River did great job in creating a lush pallet on which Roky could place his music, evening throwing in several noise sections scattered occasionally to give a nod to his psychedelic past. Opening up with "Devotional Number One", taken from an extremely primitive recording at Rusk Maximum Security Prison for the Criminally Insane, Sheff sets the tone perfectly placing this scratchy track with Roky on a an almost out-of-tune guitar and one of the most sobering moments of any album to date. The album thens skips to the present with "Aint Blues Too Sad" on which Roky delivers one of his most heartfelt lyrics, "Electricity hammered me through my head, until nothing at all is backwards instead." Just hearing him sing this line gives me chills, knowing that he has lived to tell the tale of intense shock therapy and the struggle with schizophrenia every day since. Other highlights include the country waltz feel of "Be and Bring Me Home", the upbeat "Bring Back the Past" on which he speaks of his positive outlook on the future, a new take on the dark classic "John Lawman", and the weeping pedal steel on the album's title track.
True Love Cast Out All Evil is already at the top of the list for 2010's album of the year and I have to agree with all who have made this claim thus far. I would not dare to say that this is a "comback" record because for so many of us, Roky never went anywhere. Let's just chalk this one up to yet another great record through which many old and new fans alike will rediscover one of the finest musical minds that this world has ever seen. And if anyone deserves anything close to that, that man is most definitely Roky Erickson-Andrew Bryan