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Album Review
True Love Cast Out All Evil

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


Review Date
27th April 2010
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

Roky Erickson is one of popular music’s most desolate figures – drug use, mental illness, and state abuse managed to derail a promising career and leave the ‘60s psychedelic icon in tatters for decades. Erickson came from Dallas, Texas, an unlikely place for a ‘60s garage/psychedelic musician to come from, which also meant that when he was targeted by intolerant police and subsequently arrested for the possession of one joint. He was thrown in the Hospital for the Criminally Insane (he had a history of schizophrenia) and subjected to three and a half years of electroshock therapy, and drug treatment. The result of all demolished Erickson’s personality. However he has always been critically well-regarded for his work with his band 13 Floor Elevators, and his reputation was revived with the recent documentary You’re Going to Miss Me (the title of the Elevators’ most well-known song). Texan band Okkervil River would have bneen well aware of the mythology surrounding Erickson as a result – and the two bands teamed up to give Erickson a powerful and cathartic chance to make-up for decades of suffering.

True Love Cast Out All Evil is produced by Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, and features Okkervil River’s explosive guitars and pop sensibilities in the songs’ arrangements. The production is subtle and pays due respect to its subject. But while Okkervil River’s star power would add to the saleability of the album, this is an Erickson album through and through. His first album in fourteen years, the album was culled from over sixty unreleased Erickson songs. His vocal performance is deeply affecting, whether it’s the album’s bookends (‘Devotional Number One’ – about Jesus and ‘shrooms, and ‘God is Everywhere’) which were recorded in the Hospital for the Criminally Insane, the fierce regret of ‘Goodbye Sweet Dreams’ which initially sounds like Erickson isn’t going to make it, which runs through to forgiveness and acceptance in the title-track to transcendence with ‘Forever’. The songs are the type of standard rock, blues, honky-tonk which would have been Erickson’s bread-and-butter in the late ‘60s. However, the reverence of the production, the canny arrangements to the songs, and the emotion of Erickson’s voice manage to transcend this.

There’s no doubt that the album’s raw power comes from the back story. After all, the album wouldn’t have been made without this back story. While it would have been easy to view this album as some sort of time capsule of, or an apology for, an artist who could have been huge if circumstances hadn’t conspired against him. Instead, True Love Cast Out All Evil sounds like an album that’s fiercely and proudly alive. And for a man who has been on the edge for decades, that is no mean feat.

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