2021 marks two years since the world lost psychedelic-rock pioneer Roky Erickson, best known both his solo work and for being the leader of The 13th Floor Elevators. Archival label Light in the Attic has announced the first posthumous tribute album to Erickson’s legacy, out July 17, titled May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson. The second single of the album, Neko Case’s cover of “Be And Bring Me Home” off Erickson’s 1999 album Never Say Goodbye, can be listened to exclusively via Paste below.
Case’s bone-chilling contralto looms an imposing figure over the sparse, atmospheric instrumental that fades into a muffled guitar. She delivers each line with a somber quality that hangs over the music as each line of Erickson’s takes on a new meaning as the world reflects on his legacy that has spanned over half a century: “They told me you were dirty, but I don’t see no dirt / They told me you were strong, funny I don’t feel hurt / They said you were a criminal, no one sees no crime / They said I might need their dirty prisons, but I love the way you don’t give me time.”
May The Circle Remain Unbroken was produced by Bill Bentley, a personal friend of Erickson’s and executive producer of the 1990 tribute album Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye. Speaking on how the cover came to be, Bentley said:
When we first started working on the May The Circle Remain Unbroken album, I saw a quote that Neko Case had posted on YouTube, which said basically that she felt like burning everything down after she first heard Roky had died on May 31, 2019. The passion of her sentiments punched me hard in my heart, because I felt exactly the same way. So when we were contacting artists to maybe record a Roky song for the tribute collection, I immediately thought of Neko. I knew how much she felt the loss but I didn’t know her to ask. But I did know Andy Kaulkin at Anti-Records, who worked with her there. He put me in touch with Neko’s manager Rachel Flotard, but it looked like with all her projects Neko wouldn’t be able to record in time. But I felt Roky’s spirit possess me, like it did that very first time I saw the 13th Floor Elevators in 1966 at a Houston club, and I absolutely believed she belonged on this album. It had to be. So I tried again and again, and finally a beautiful door opened and Neko’s recording of ‘Be and Bring Me Home’ was done. From the woods of Vermont, I think. It is such a beautiful expression of love and hope that I still am overcome everytime I hear it.
The song was written at a time when Roky was locked up in the hospital for the Criminally Insane in Rusk, Texas in the early 1970s, which was the start of his descent into worlds he did not deserve to be put in. But Roky never quit trying and believing in a world beyond where he was. That is what Neko’s incredible recording captures. Roky would be released and live to soar another day. And that happened over and over in his life, right up until the end. We are all able to learn what the beautiful human spirit is capable of, both from Roky and Neko’s lives. The circle is unbroken.
May The Circle Remain Unbroken will be available on all formats July 17, with recordings from Lucinda Williams, Billy F Gibbons, The Black Angels, Margo Price and more. The vinyl version will be available as a Record Store Day exclusive with a booklet, liner notes, and a flexi-disc featuring an unreleased track titled “Love Hieroglyphics.”
Listen to Neko Case’s stunning cover of “Be And Bring Me Home” exclusively via Paste below along with a 2007 recording of Roky Erickson and the Explosives’ performance of “Two Headed Dog” via the Paste archives. Scroll further down for the complete details of May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson.
May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson Artwork:
May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson Tracklist:
01. Billy F Gibbons – (I’ve Got) Levitation
02. Mosshart Sexton – Starry Eyes
03. Jeff Tweedy – For You (I’d Do Anything)
04. Lynn Castle & Mark Lanegan – Clear Night For Love
05. The Black Angels – Don’t Fall Down
06. Neko Case – Be And Bring Me Home
01. Margo Price – Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)
02. Gary Clark Jr. & Eve Monsees – Roller Coaster
03. Ty Segall – Night Of The Vampire
04. Lucinda Williams – You’re Gonna Miss Me
05. Chelsea Wolfe – If You Have Ghosts
06. Brogan Bentley – May The Circle Remain Unbroken
Bonus RSD-only flexi disc:
01. Roky Erickson – Love Hieroglyphics