Once again I owe thanks to NPR for letting me stumble across this in one of their podcasts. Roky Erickson was a new name to me but Okkervil Riverwho provide the backing band on this remarkable album was not.
The CD liner notes carry an extensive resume of this man’s extraordinary life from his time in 13th Elevators in the late ’60’s, the habitual dropping of acid before shows, to the early stardom followed by the swift decline and eventual locking up in a secure mental hospital and finally his re-emergence back into society and picking up his music once more. There is a truncated version of this history on his web site but the longer version does merit reading.
Okkervil River, and in particular Will Sheff, were handed the task of making sense of years of scraps of music and fuller songs and in good time this CD emerged. Even without knowing the history it has a heavy sense of nostalgia, of stuff that needed to be said, a man finding his voice again after very troubled times, and in some ways the sort of feeling that came through in the last of Jonny Cash’s American series (although hopefully Erickson at 63 has a little more time remaining)
Music with substance, gravitas, and even if this sort of folk/country/Americana is not your thing, music whose quality cannot be denied.
The Vimeo interview with Roky and Will Sheff is well worth watching