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Album Review

Roky Erickson, 'True Love Cast Out All Evil'

April 19, 2010

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Consider it a miracle that this record is even here. Roky Erickson is one of rock’s survivors — a psychedelic pioneer who wrote the hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me’’ for his band the 13th Floor Elevators, but then fell into a fog from a reported 300 acid trips and finally into a prison for the criminally insane for a few years after being arrested for possessing a single joint in his native Texas. Erickson has surfaced periodically, but this is his first album in 15 years and it’s a beguiling, surprisingly clear-eyed gem. It contains many songs he wrote in prison — some are the original recordings with a tinny, primitive acoustic guitar lent by prison staff; others are newly sung and backed by Austin disciples Okkervil River. Okkervil’s Will Sheff overdoes a few arrangements but mostly keeps with Erickson’s haunting, to-hell-and-back vocals typified by “Please, Judge’’ (about begging for his freedom), the devotional “Forever’’ (one of several tracks espousing God), and the Dylanesque title track. This album isn’t for everyone, but it’s as open-hearted and grittily triumphant as any you’ll hear this year. Think of Wilco meeting Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois at times. And think of what we missed by not having Roky around in his prime. Eccentric and fascinating, this almost feels like Erickson’s “Pet Sounds.’’ (Out tomorrow) STEVE MORSE

ESSENTIAL “Please, Judge’’