True Love Cast Out All Evil works like a cross between Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here and Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose: it finds troubled Texas psych-rock legend Roky Erickson reflecting on a life filled with turmoil over arrangements performed and produced by one of his most ardent admirers, Will Sheff of Austin’s Okkervil River. (In case you don’t remember, Jack White helmed Van Lear Rose.)
Erickson secured his place in record-nerd lore as frontman of the 13th Floor Elevators, his seminal late-’60s freak-garage combo, but the years following the band’s break-up were filled with legal and medical troubles that included a stretch inside Texas’s Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. That dark period provides the fodder for many of the dozen tunes here. “Please, judge, give freedom to this child,” Erickson sings in one of the disc’s most chilling cuts. “It sure would make him smile.”
Like Scott-Heron on his album (or Johnny Cash during his Rick Rubin era), Erickson makes no attempt to conceal the cracks and imperfections in his voice, and that can give the material a patina of old-sage wisdom it might not otherwise have. Yet thanks to Okkervil’s chiming, handsome folk rock — and also to Erickson’s improbably buoyant spirit — the music doesn’t sound defeated or even especially vulnerable. True Love makes good on its title.