Vikesh Kapoor – “The Ballad of Willy Robins”
“Dylan’s early years were marked with this type of exploration and hero-imitation. Here’s hoping Vikesh follows the same trajectory.” – Lee FowlerLee Fowler
out of 10
The Ballad of Willy Robins
October 15th, 2013
Mama Bird Recording Co.
The cause of the disenfranchised proletariat has coaxed many a yawp from earnest folk troubadours. The best have raised their scuffed and scratched acoustic guitars in subtle poetic ode to the working man, veritably inhabiting the characters in their songs. Songwriters elevate their characters’ stories above the assembly lines and the ditches into a melodic narrative of determined, blue-collar nobility in the face of a merciless, greedy bourgeoisie.
Vikesh Kapoor has seen the mold for these historically great protest songs, and The Ballad of Willie Robbins is his contribution to this Woodie Guthrie brand of folk music. It’s easy to fall flat as a singer-songwriter when songs are arranged and committed to tape. Either it’s sparse and boring or overwrought with studio gimmicks. The Ballad of Willie Robbins is thankfully neither, and it feels like he picks up the accordion, harmonica, and mandolin at just the right times. The tape hiss and the string arrangements both feel at home. He has the folk-era Dylanesque strum and a nicely restrained but reedy Oberstian delivery.
There are some truly sublime musical moments (the harmonica and string swell in “Ode To My Hometown”) and there are moments where he successfully translates the plebeian’s weary sigh into a cathartic plea, most notably in the jarringly lyrical “same shit most days” in “Blue Eyed Baby.” Unfortunately, there are other moments where the lyrics fall flat and the voice of the proletariat is lost in the voice of an idealistic twenty-something in earnest but inauthentic tribute to his protest singer heroes. Lines like “Willie Robbins was a hard-workin’ fellow” and “I get run down by the foreman” nod toward the struggles of blue-collar labor without actually penetrating the mind and soul of the characters.
Dylan’s early years were marked with this type of exploration and hero-imitation. Here’s hoping Vikesh follows the same trajectory.
– January 31st, 2014 – Lee Fowler