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Vikesh Kapoor - The Ballad of Willy Robbins

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 10 / 6 / 2014

Vikesh Kapoor - The Ballad of Willy Robbins
Label: Loose Music
Format: CD


Stark but brilliant concept album from socially and politically conscious Pennsylvanian singer-songwriter Vikesh Kapoor, which draws comparisons with Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’

London’s Loose Music has always been at the forefront of the Americana/Alt. Country movement, but with recent releases from Israel Nash and Sturgill Simpson the label proved that they are still putting new artists out there who are pushing the boundaries of the genre and doing it successfully. Vikesh Kapoor is the latest artist to appear on the label. Kapoor’s debut album, ‘The Ballad of Willy Robbins’ is not just another fine album to bear the Loose logo; it’s actually one of the top five the label have so far released. 28 year-old Kapoor (his parents were born in India) grew up in Pennsylvania listening to Johnny Cash, Springsteen, Dylan, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie…you get the picture. Performing at Howard Zinn’s memorial service in Boston (in front of Zinn’s family) and spurred on by Zinn’s battle against race and class injustice, Kapoor was inspired to spend the next two years working on what would become ‘The Ballad of Willy Robbins’. Willy Robbins is a fictional character created by Kapoor after he read a newspaper article. Robbins was a construction worker, a married man who eventually loses everything. Hired as part of a team to construct a tower in his hometown, Robbins gets cheated out of his pay. The title song is the heart of the album obviously, Kapoor detailing the hopes then downfall of this hardworking everyman. The way Kapoor details the break-up of Robbins’ marriage is particularly heartbreaking. A song later in the album, ‘I Never Knew What I Saw You’ appears to be written from Robbins’ wife, Margaret’s, perspective. The song is sung in unexpected falsetto (which Kapoor drifts into occasionally) but more jarring is the bare, scratchy, almost ghostly affect the song brings to the album. Having just come away from listening to Neil Young’s latest album (and actually getting it…I think), I can’t help but wonder if the contrary old sod has heard this particular track. One thing’s for sure; Kapoor has heard Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’. There are echoes of that album all over Kapoor’s debut ,which is no bad thing. In fact it’s inevitable given the picture of America that Kapoor is painting with these songs. It’s to Kapoor’s credit that he can take his view of America, relate the everyday trials, heartbreak and having your dreams ripped from you in what would appear to be an unsympathetic country and make it so believable even for those lucky enough never to have experienced such a life. Like most real folk music ‘The Ballad of Willy Robbins’ is an education. Tracks such as ‘Searching for the Sun’ are where Kapoor really comes into his own. It’s on songs like this with pedal steel filling out his sound that Kapoor leaves behind all the Nebraska and Seeger/ Guthrie comparisons and creates a sound of his own. That he follows that song with ‘Ode To My Hometown’, which again brings Kapoor’s so obvious and age-old influences bang up to date shows that there’s more to Kapoor than just another folk artist with a conscience. ‘The Ballad of Willy Robbins’ is more than just an interesting collection of loosely themed songs. For all his obvious influences Kapoor has made an album that, although seeped in American mythology, will appeal to music lovers worldwide.

Track Listing:-
1 Bottom of the Ladder
2 The Ballad of Willy Robbins
3 I Dreamt Blues
4 Blue-Eyed Baby
5 Carry Me, Home
6 I Never Knew What I Saw In You
7 Searching for the Sun
8 Ode To My Hometown
9 Forever Gone

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Interview (2015)
Vikesh Kapoor - Interview
Owen Peters talks to Oregon-based singer-songwriter Vikesh Kapoor about his Indian heritage and his debut album and concept record, ‘The Ballad of Willy Robbins’

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