Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Album Review: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil

Take one legend of psychedelia and one pretty excellent contemporary indie band and what do you get? You get the amazing collaboration between Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, otherwise known as True Love Cast Out All Evil. It’s a meeting of the minds of the highest order, and it’s a pretty fine effort across the board.

Roky Erickson is older, wiser, and is still in rather fine musical fettle. Renowned as a cult figure the world over, thanks to all that mind-bendingly bizarre music he crafted along with the other 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson has had some modicum of success on his own, which continues here (after a rather extended hiatus). True Love Cast Out All Evil is a pretty good reminder that Erickson’s still got it, and also shows off how good that Okkervil River is.

We begin with what sounds a little bit like a demo, “Devotional Number One”, which features typical, roundabout merry-go-round Erickson lyrics (“Jesus is not a hallucinogenic mushroom”) and a gorgeous swell of instrumentation that eventually overtakes the rest of the song, crashing into itself before petering out into the next song. “Ain’t Blues Too Sad” is heavily-twanged, a country song done Roky’s way. “Don’t look back/ain’t blues too sad,” he opines, in a somewhat philosophical way (though somewhat tongue-in-cheek as well). “Goodbye Sweet Dreams” feels very Okkervil, with the expansive instrumentation and spellbinding feel.

I absolutely love “Be And Bring Me Home”, reminding me as it does of a song by The Band, done of course through the eyes of Roky. There’s definite shades of Okkervil in this one, too, with the shimmering, dark guitar that sizzles in between the verses. “Bring Back The Past” rolls in sounding like vintage Uncle Tupelo, a sound that definitely brings a smile to my face. It’s short but sweet, and I like it a lot. “John Lawman” has some of the best guitar on the record, though Roky’s voice does sound a little strained at times. “Birds’d Crash” is another one I really find rather appealing, thanks to the fuzzy swirl of the guitar and Roky’s unique tone. The Okkervil sound sure does work with the rocky voice of Roky.

Ok, so it’s probably not my favorite record of the entire year. There’s a couple songs here I could take or leave. But it’s still a good ‘un, and brings together two formidable musical forces with wonderful results. It's beautiful and sad and confounding. In a math sense, Roky + Okkervil River = pretty special.

mp3: Ain’t Blues Too Sad (Roky & Okkervil River from True Love Cast Out All Evil)

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