Folk singer Vikesh Kapoor was raised in rural Pennsylvania, but his musical ideologies place him somewhere in the storied histories of a dozen immigrants and their extended families. His communal bond to the ideas and narratives of these individuals began when he trekked across the United States and temporarily became a mason’s apprentice. A few years later, Kapoor found himself playing at the memorial service of historian Howard Zinn in Boston. Taking up Zinn’s lifelong battle against class/race discrimination, Kapoor used this new-found righteous fervor to fuel the recording sessions for his debut LP, The Ballad Of Willy Robbins (out tomorrow via Mama Bird Recording Co.) — which is a loose concept album based on the details of a newspaper article Kapoor had read and that chronicles the struggles and hopes of a working class man who loses practically everything in his pursuit of a good life. The story is not without resolution however and comes to show how a man is defined by his determination to create something for himself in this life.
Melding the traditions of folk progenitors such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Kapoor evokes desperation as honestly and convincingly as any musician can. His stories of hard lives fought and lost and won again have the grit and sound of reality — a place out of time where the struggle is less about meaningless class labels and more about the right of every person to be able to exist free of worry and doubt and fear, a place that currently only exists in our minds. Using the bare timbre of his acoustic guitar, the occasional string of organ notes, and some world-worn harmonica runs, he crafts earnest odes to the men and women who strive each day to provide for themselves and their loved ones. His world may not initially seem like a place you’d want to visit often, but if we forget how hard it can be, we deny the accomplishments of all those that have come before. The Ballad Of Willy Robbins is affecting and immediate and, using just a bare minimum of accompaniment, it places us squarely in these individual’s lives – in their shoes and homes, where each day can seem like an eternity and tomorrow is always a question to be answered in the morning.
Beats Per Minute is pleased to premiere the album stream of Vikesh Kapoor’s upcoming debut, The Ballad Of Willy Robbins.