Powell St. John
Sultan of Psychedelia (Lysergic Sound Distributors)
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., May 4, 2018
As the bridge between the roots-oriented Waller Creek Boys (with Janis Joplin on autoharp) and the 13th Floor Elevators, Powell St. John's impact on Austin music history is hard to overstate. His contributions to the Elevators' recorded canon easily earn this album's honorific. Several get reimagined here in a manner highlighting St. John's essential strengths as a songwriter. Beneath high desert slide guitar and jug pulsations lie well-steeped folk and blues structures with a hint of Tin Pan Alley. Hearing "Kingdom of Heaven" delivered in St. John's weathered, emotive voice gives new dimension to the acid litany. Likewise, a shambling take on "Bye, Bye Baby" accentuates the song's jug band allusions more than Big Brother & the Holding Company's version did. St. John revisits his Mother Earth days with a bucolic reading of "I, The Fly" before Roky Erickson turns up to duet on Easter Everywhere outtake "Right Track Now." The intriguingly incongruent "Synthetic Love" augments acoustic guitar with harrowing synthesizer washes out of a Dario Argento score. All the better to keep this trip eclectic.