At the back end of last year the sophisticated soul crowd were thrilled with a new EP from smooth soul maestro WILL DOWNING. ‘Romantique part 1’ offered Will’s distinctive take on a clutch of soul and jazz standards like Dionne Warwick’s Isaac Hayes penned ‘Déjà Vu’ and Lou Rawls’ ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love like Mine’ alongside his own ‘If She Knew’. The tag line “part 1” indicated there was more to come – and , lo and behold, here it is ‘Romantique part 2’… a 6 tracker that, like episode 1, mixes the well known with some Downing originals.

Of the well-known, the chief focus is a treatment of Tony Joe White’s ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’. I’ve lost count of how many versions there are of this, but Will’s new look comes close to matching the melancholy beauty of Brook Benton’s classic reading … there’s even a mournful harmonica in there!

The two other cuts that perfectly match the ‘Romantique’ billing are Will’s versions of Larry Graham’s ‘One In A Million’ and Jon Lucien’s ‘Lady Love’. Elsewhere, there’s a strutting version of Barry White’s ‘Ecstasy’ (not quite Quiet Strom) and a crisp beating ‘Close To You’ and a catchy ‘Ready, Willing And Able’ which was the EP heralding single.

WILL DOWNING; Romantique part 2 out now on Will’s own Sophisticated Soul label