foldl in Erlang is tail recursive automatically. foldr is not by default tail recursive in Erlang, Though I should mention foldr is tail recursive in languages like Haskell, and there are implementations of foldr in terms of foldl and visa versa. The conversions between foldr & foldl (depending on which is tail recursive) make explicit what needs to be done to move from non-tail recursive to tail recursive for recursions. Yet another reason you want to use those.
And as for can't follow. Your claim was about the messiness that these imperative artifacts remained and were worse. To avoid the messiness, you have to use the looping structures of functional programming Doing functional programming imperatively, of course is going to be messy. Doing functional programming functionally and you get the benefits.