It’s WILL DOWNING’S birthday this week – November 29th to be precise. The Prince of Sophisticated Soul will be “celebrating” (if that’s the right word) with  a new album – ‘Soul Rising’. We use the word “celebrating” with caution because 2023 has been a tough year for Will. In January his daughter, Aron Siobhan,  tragically died. It seems Aron took her own life and it’s impossible to think how any parent would cope with that dreadful situation. Months later Will wrote and recorded a song in honour of Aron and ‘Till We Meet Again’ was a stately smooth controlled reaction  and, importantly, carried a message of hope. At the time Will said:” It’s important that we break the stigma around mental health and suicide and encourage people to seek help when they need it.”

Still grieving the soul man found solace in the studio and in October he released another lovely single, ‘What Part Of My Love’ – a song he said that was aimed for both the dance floor and the bedroom! The cut and the aforementioned  ‘Till We Meet Again’ proffered all the familiar Will Downing trademarks and flourishes and both tracks are now focal points on the new “birthday album”.

‘Soul Rising’ is a concise 7 tracker – thus no filler; 7 quality cuts that together speak of triumph over tragedy – hence the title. The optimism can be felt from the start with the sweet, tight beater ‘Closer To Me’ – an aural definition of the oeuvre of Will Downing. Elsewhere some reviewers have likened ‘House Of Love’ to Maze – even a quick listen will confirm the similarity; it’s not so much the vocal (that is uniquely WD), it’s more the vibe, the atmosphere. ‘Love For A Lifetime’ is a classic Downing Quiet Storm outing. ‘Love You Right’ channels a deeper groove while the album’s big surprise is a gorgeous cover of the Linda Creed/Thom Bell song ‘You’re As Right As Rain’. The song’s best known in its Stylistics’ version but another sophisticated soul man, the great Phil Perry has covered it too. Here, Will makes it his own, bringing bags of controlled emotion to a real blue lights in the basement song. The cherry on the cake is the sweet horn of Johnny Britt. Like the other six cuts, this ‘Right As Rain’ is proper grown up soul music. Yes, we know we say that about every Will Downing release – but it’s true.

WILL DOWNING: ‘Soul Rising’ out now via Sophistical Soul. The lovely cover artwork, by the way, is an original piece by Frank Morrison.