WILL DOWNING; The Promise (Shanachie)


Soul is the most personal of all musical genres and the masters of the craft deliver with such intimacy and conviction that they seem to be able to speak to and connect with each and every individual directly. Will Downing is an undoubted master of the soul art and over two decades he’s delivered plenty of proper soul music – music that is both universal and personal. Now with his latest project, ‘The Promise’, Will delivers his most personal album to date.

You see back in 2007 – at what was shaping up to be his career peak – Will Downing was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease polymyositis. Always a fighter, Downing eventually recovered through, he believes, a combination of medical skill, familial love and his faith in God. The singer tells us that in prayer through his lowest times he offered himself to God in return for a recovery: “Lord you see me through this and I promise I will give you all the honour, all the praise…wherever I go.”

Thankfully, Will made a full recovery and since 2007 he’s made several excellent albums, but now 12 years down the line, he delivers on his promise with ‘The Promise’ – our man’s first full gospel album and his testimony to the power of faith and prayer.

Musically, the sound is vintage Will Downing… smooth, sophisticated soul with, as you’d imagine, in places, gospel shadings. Those shadings are most obvious on the opener, ‘Take It To The Cross’, which features what sounds like a large gospel choir in support of Will’s heartfelt testifying. Elsewhere there are pleasing upbeat, optimistic moments like ‘God Will Show You The Way’ which echoes those great Sounds Of Blackness /Jam and Lewis tunes and ‘Look At Yourself In The Mirror’ which was the album’s first single. There are deeper moments too like the piano led ‘God Is So Amazing’ and ‘Changed’ – a stirring duet with Regina Belle.

Will calls this album is love letter to God; the ten song cycle is in the long tradition of gospel testifying… sharing experiences of adversity and overcoming it. But even if you’re not a believer, Will also delivers a master class in soul music; believer or not this music will speak to you.

(BB) 4/5