Will Downing | The Promise

Will Downing | The Promise
Shanachie Records
by Peggy Oliver

When an artist who has maintained a career that is deemed successful, sometimes the stability in all the achievements and awards can be taken for granted. So as a dramatic or near catastrophic situation stares that musician or vocalist in the face, the challenges to their professional life could be turned into a make it moment or a career breaker. Will Downing, one of adult contemporary urban top notch singer/songwriters found himself in the midst of a serious health scare over ten years ago. Yet instead of shaking a fist at the industry, Downing was already etching his own testimony about how God would see him through, despite the possibly detrimental odds. Fast forward to 2018, where the Prince of Sophisticated Soul expresses his gratitude and faith on his upcoming CD, The Promise (Shanachie Entertainment). Undoubtedly, Downing gives God the glory and much of the material could be translated to an uplifting praise and worship environment. However, how does The Promise really fare with Downing pretty much sticking to his creamy soulful baritone that has brought him several Top 50 R&B CD’s in the last three decades?

The answer lies in Downing’s genuine personal convictions that echo throughout most of “The Promise.” For starters, “Take It To The Cross” leans more on the urban gospel praise and worship side, that simply points to where all our earthly burdens should go: “Storms are weather when your faith is strong/Your experience is just a season long.” But for the most part, Downing holds onto the smooth, such as “I Hear A Voice,” centering on his answer to prayer during his health test, climaxed with some call and response with the backing voices. “You Blessed My Life” is a mostly peaceful testimonial of how Downing prevailed through the trails. On a more upbeat plain, “He Will Be There” pumps a pure disco soundtrack and “Shout (A Celebration of Life)” interjects a spirited choir and an African chant break. Back to the ballads, a re-recording of “God Is So Amazing” originally heard on his “After Tonight” CD and a winning duet with Regina Belle, “Changed” are two especially notable moments that successfully merge sound spiritual teaching moments with Downing’s impressive vocal range and phrasing. Until further notice, time will really tell if those who are invested in gospel music as opposed to quiet storm soul will gravitate to “The Promise.” Four and a half stars out of five.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene