ROKY ERIKSON with OKKERVIL RIVER
True Love Cast Out All Evil
[Rating: 4.5 stars]
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. It’s a song of salvation, sung in a pure voice radiating youth and hope. Though that voice has aged 40 years by the next track, its hopeful resolve remains.
These songs were written during bouts of isolation, schizophrenia, legal problems and death scares, yet they almost all insist that better days lie ahead. They’re the improbable account of a lost soul who, at age 63, has seemingly willed himself back to health. A fierce backing band, Okkervil River lends them drama, tension and a cinematic pomp that underscores the miraculous nature of Erickson’s recovery.
“Suddenly I’m not sick,” Erickson sings, but there’s no surprise in his voice. It may have taken decades longer than he thought, but he always maintained this day would arrive eventually.