Will Champlin is a true musical troubadour. When you think that you’ve gotten the bespectacled Voice star figured out, he throws yet another sonic curveball that’s just as delightfully varied and talent-ridden as the last. This is especially eminent on his latest album, and his first full-length release since his competing on The Voice during the show’s 5th season. It’s entitled Borrowing Trouble, and it was released on June 20, much to the extreme applause of his many beloved #Champs across the Twitterverse and other social media outlets.
Will may not have always been the most vocally competent or even the one with the most stage presence on the show during his run (“At Last,” “Demons” and “Carry On” were definite highlights, for me), but it was in the idiosyncratic way he connected with his songs that won him a spot on the finale. He was and is a relatable guy who just so happens to be immensely talented in the way that he can craft a musical vision in his mind and then drive it home. And it has to be said — without the confines of a TV show holding him back to weekly cover performances, his wonderful mind is much better showcased with the endlessly expanded amount of freedom in mind.
In Borrowing Trouble, he was essentially able to craft an album that was quintessentially, even poetically himself without any outside influences holding him back, accentuating the beauty of independent craftsmanship. Will’s good friend and fellow singer-songwriter Steven Gallagher helped in devising the album with him, having a notable involvement in Champlin’s debut single from off of the record, “Eye of the Pyramid”, before this full release. I’m sure that they played off of each other a lot in and out of the studio while devising the songs and, eventually, the overall production for this album and it shows.
The level of camaraderie in Will and Steven’s meticulously designing Borrowing Trouble is palpable, each song being its own little realm for Will to explore every side of himself in a fresh and relevatory way. The aforementioned “Eye of the Pyramid” is the opening track on Borrowing Trouble and is just as engaging as it was when I originally reviewed it back in March. The Middle Eastern flair adds something remarkably unique to the arrangement that’s only matched by Champlin’s passionate delivery and thoughtful, economy-inspired lyricism. This is the sort of varied style that remains totally active across the whole album. By that, I mean that every song present on Borrowing Trouble has its own thing going on about it that truly highlights Will’s sui generis-genuine nature of going about delivering a tune from top to bottom!
While each track is quite different in its delivery than the last, Borrowing Trouble hardly plays like an album devised of commercially-viable singles deliberately produced just to be commercially-viable. As true as it is that many of the songs present on the album would fit insanely well on Top 40 radio as it is in the modern era, it’s also eminent that this is the exact type of thing that Will wants to be doing. When an artist is legitimately doing exactly what they want to do with their brand, it shows, and it shows especially well in Borrowing Trouble.
It’s hard to argue that, with his spitfire vocals and infectious energy present across the entirety of his album that Will is in it only for a quick buck. There’s a real passion behind everything that he does here, and again, it’s palpable. He works just as well as an artist delivering a club-ready hook over the catchy electronicoustic composition of “While We’re Young” as he is a wild arena rocker on “No Fair Game”. Similarly, he does wonders on as a “dubfolk” artist on “Heat of Passion” and does just as well delivering a beautiful, emotional croon across soulful, stripped ballad and album-closer, “Breathe.”
To say that Will Champlin proves naysayers wrong in Borrowing Trouble is a complete understatement. He not only does that ten or even twenty times over, but he lays down the law in developing himself as a brilliantly eclectic who could seriously front the entire industry if he were ever given the chance. Still, though, what Borrowing Trouble is is an album scrupulously designed by two men who love music and are incredibly talented in music doing what they do best and what they want to do most. Not only is this my favorite album released by an alumni of The Voice yet… it’s also my favorite independent album of 2014 so far.
tl;dr — In a world chockful of pop/rock, Borrowing Trouble is one of the very best.
You can purchase Borrowing Troubles on Will Champlins on iTunes now for just $9.99! You’ll nab a bonus 10-page ebooklet with lyrics and pictures, too, if you do. Also make sure to follow Will on Twitter and Facebook for all of the latest. If it tickles your fancy to do so, you can check both Steve and I out on Twitter, too, here and here, respectively.