One could argue that Roky Erickson's entire body of work is underrated. Nevertheless, I waded through his maddeningly inconsistent catalog and picked out five songs that may have escaped notice, either solo or with the 13th Floor Elevators. Please feel free to add to the list, and check out Erickson on Friday at the Kessler Theater.
1. "Fire Engine" Sure, this is a fairly recognized song in the 13th Floor Elevators catalog, but there's no denying its psychotic power. Ironically, I first heard this as a cover version on a live album by ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd.
2. "I'm Gonna Free Her" From 1995's All That May Do My Rhyme, this optimistic little ditty is worlds away from Roky's tortured past. Sounding coherent and contented, Erickson showed he was still relevant.
3. "John Lawman" From 2010's True Love Cast Out All Evil, this song could have easily been written two decades earlier. Really, the entire album (featuring Okkervil River as the backing band) is amazing, but "John Lawman" still stands out.
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4. "Creature with the Atom Brain" Another fairly well-known number, this song always makes me giggle. I still find it remarkable how Erickson mixed The Misfits with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
5. "Save Me" A raw, acoustic song collected on 1999's Never Say Goodbye, among other places. Several of the tracks were recorded while Erickson spent time in Rusk State Mental Hospital. While certainly lo-fi, "Save Me" features a cool retro vibe and killer vocal performance.
Roky Erickson performs with James Hall & The Futura Bold on Friday, July 13, at the Kessler Theater.