Music News

Roky Erickson and Okkervil River: True Love Cast Out All Evil

Artist: Roky Erickson and Okkervil River

Title: True Love Cast Out All Evil
Release date: April 20
Label: Anti-

Score another one for the old goats. The latest has-been to crawl out of the peculiar limbo that the popular culture reserves for aging legends is Roky Erickson.

If you've never heard of the guy, he's the man behind what is perhaps the quintessential garage-rock song, "You're Gonna Miss Me," which he recorded a few generations ago with his psychedelic-garage band the 13th Floor Elevators.

Like Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn did with Rick Rubin and Jack White, respectively, Roky has made an unlikely re-emergence with hipper, much-younger collaborators. In this case, the collaborator is the alt-country band Okkervil River. And like Johnny/Rick and Loretta/Jack it's a pretty magical fit.

That Erickson has a bunch of great songs to work with here is no surprise. To my ears, the revelation is Okkervil River, a band I'd never heard before but will undoubtedly delve into next year, when my overlords let me listen to old music again.

Erickson, as the rock 'n' roll cliché goes, has been to hell and back -- drugs, mental and physical illness, prison, musical irrelevance. So, it's no surprise that much of True Love Cast Out All Evil is a meditation on redemption and persevering thanks to the power of rock 'n' roll. 

Erickson, in his haggard Texas twang, gives some gutty and emotional vocal performances. (Only "John Lawman" is an out-and-out rocker, so don't expect any "You're Gonna Miss Me" rehashes here.) And Okkervil River's tasteful and inventive arrangements bring these songs to life in a way that was really missing in Jakob Dylan's new record, Women + Country, which I wrote about earlier this week. The only reason I'm comparing them is because the records traffic in the same alt-country/Americana idioms. I found Erickson and Okkervil pulling off a more emotionally resonant record than Dylan and his co-horts Neko Case and T Bone Burnett.

Erickson has always been unstable and unpredictable, and we may never hear from him again after True Love Cast Out All Evil. Fortunately, this record is good enough to tide us over for a long time to come.

Best song: "Goodbye Sweet Dreams," as haunting and melancholic as the title would indicate.
Rotation: Heavy
Deja vu: Further proof you can never count out the old goats of rock.
I'd rather listen to: Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, which is in my top 10 LPs of the 2000s
Grade: A-

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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