BACK FROM THE GRAVE: Roky Erickson Teams Up With Okkervil River For New Album

rokyerickson.jpgANTI RECORDS: Legendary musician Roky Erickson triumphantly returns on April 20th with the Anti Record’s release True Love Cast Out All Evil his first new album in fourteen years. Produced by Will Sheff and featuring his band Okkervil River backing Erickson, the record is comprised largely of unreleased songs that Austin, Texas native Erickson wrote throughout his decades-long career – detailing with heart-breaking candor a harrowing life that has included shock treatment, imprisonment, mental illness, and irreversible loss. With a wisdom that can only be marshaled by someone who has been through all of the this, Erickson also interjects the songs with love, hope, and spiritual grace.

While True Love Cast Out All Evil echoes the many musical styles in which Erickson has been a participant or a pioneer – including garage-rock, lo-fi psych, heavy metal, and country-tinged Texas folk – it also moves Erickson into new territory, foregrounding his songwriting skill.  In these songs, Erickson addresses his troubled  history in his own words, eschewing the metaphors of earlier songs like “I Walked with a Zombie” to speak directly about hardship and the lessons learned from it.  Will Sheff’s production highlights the songs while interweaving them with found-sound and archival recordings culled from Erickson’s home videos and recordings made in the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

“I feel truly lucky that I got to produce this record,” Sheff says. “When we started out, I was given sixty unreleased songs to choose from.  There were songs written during business setbacks including the Elevators’ painful breakup, songs written by Roky while he was incarcerated at Rusk, and a great deal of songs that reminded me of the sense of optimism and romanticism that I think sustained Roky through his worst years and ultimately reunited him, a few years ago, with his son Jegar and his first wife Dana.  Because we started with so many songs to choose from, the quality of the material we ended up with was exhilarating.  This is not a cynical comeback record, a lukewarm update on an established legacy – these are the best songs Roky has ever written, unreleased due to decades plagued by the kind of personal tragedies that would destroy someone less resilient.  This record has been the most challenging and rewarding, thing I’ve ever worked on, and we in Okkervil River were deeply honored to show up decades later and help Roky carry these wonderful songs over the finish line.’

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ROCK SNOB ENCYCLOPEDIA: ERICKSON, ROKY: ’60s psych/garage-rock pioneer, demon-crazed ’70s solo artist, acid casualty, drug-war martyr, 13.jpgpatron saint of alt-rock’s fringe dwellers. In 1968, Erickson, then singer for Texas’ psych-edelic avatars the 13th Floor Elevators, was busted for possession of a small quantity of marijuana and offered a choice: 10 years in prison or a stretch at Rusk State Psychiatric Hospital. He opted for the padded cell. Already half-fried from Herculean doses of psychedelics, Erickson was subjected to a cruel regimen of “experimental” drugs and electro-shock therapy and was released three years later a diagnosed schizophrenic. Telegraphing the horror within, Erickson released a series of protopunk solo records in the ’70s and early-’80s riddled with references to zombies, vampires, aliens and the devil himself. His profile was raised further by the 1990 tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, which featured REM, ZZ Top, the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Butthole Surfers. After getting arrested again–for stealing his neighbor’s mail–Erickson was taken under the wing of the Butthole’s drummer, King Koffey, who got him back into the studio for 1995’s quite lovely All That May Do My Rhyme. More recently, Touch and Go released Never Say Goodbye, a recording of Erickson alone with his acoustic guitar during his stay at Rusk. Minus the acid polemics of his tenure with the Elevators and the demons that haunt his solo career, Never Say Goodbye reveals a gifted, broken soul searching for peace, love and understanding–and really, there’s nothing funny or crazy about that. Like fellow Texan Buddy Holly, Erickson delivers heart-tugging snatches of melody in the hiccup of his reedy voice and the plaintive strum of his guitar, mapping what Leonard Cohen calls the crack at the center of everything where the light gets in. The intent of this release was to make these previously unheard songs available to other performers, with all proceeds going to Erickson’s trust fund. Here’s hoping somebody picks them up and carries them to the exalted places they hint at, a trip that Erickson is no longer willing or able to undertake. MORE

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