I Need You Now

by: Smokie Norful

Time will tell if this new and vocally impressive Smokie Norful will ever match the influence of R&B's other great, Smokey Robinson, but what's clear is that both are in the business of miracles. Norful comes to his hip, gospel-funk sensibilities from a background as the son of an AME Pastor and an overseer of music, youth, and children's ministries in Chicago. So even as the music weaves from the crunch funk of "It's All About You" (employing the croaking "Superstition" keyboard effect of influence Stevie Wonder) to softer reflections like the title track, his heart is definitely in the spirit throughout. His goal seems to be finding a happy middle ground where Biblically based inspirations meet modern crossover hip-hop sensibilities, and practical-minded tunes like "Life's Not Promised" hit the mark. Other tunes like "Still Say Thank You" and the happy-clappy "Praise Him" have a sense of the real church experience, organ and all, and sound like they could have been recorded from the pulpit. A rich experience that avoids many of the clichés of modern gospel and conveys the spirit without being too preachy or hokey. ~ Jonathan Widran

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