14 Songs, 55 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Five years in the making, Forever Yours confirms Smokie Norful’s place in the forefront of contemporary gospel. He translates his experience as pastor of the Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, Ill., into songs that speak to the hopes and setbacks of ordinary believers. Norful’s latest batch of songs combine sanctified lyrics with musical elements that reach beyond traditional gospel. A pop/rock melodic approach can be heard in “Run Run,” while “Imperfect Me” inspires comparisons with the sophisticated soul of ‘70s-era Stevie Wonder. “In the Meantime” embraces modern electronica sounds while delivering a message of patience and faith. The reggae feel of “Nothing Is Impossible” adds a summery twist to the proceedings. Norful doesn’t stint on his trademark ballads, offering such standouts as the elegantly rendered “No Greater Love” and the yearning “He Loves Me.” With production input from such studio veterans as Tony Dixon, Derek “D.O.A.” Allen, Elvis “Black Elvis” Williams, Aaron Lindsey, and Warryn Campbell, Forever Yours is as sonically impressive as it is spiritually uplifting.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Five years in the making, Forever Yours confirms Smokie Norful’s place in the forefront of contemporary gospel. He translates his experience as pastor of the Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, Ill., into songs that speak to the hopes and setbacks of ordinary believers. Norful’s latest batch of songs combine sanctified lyrics with musical elements that reach beyond traditional gospel. A pop/rock melodic approach can be heard in “Run Run,” while “Imperfect Me” inspires comparisons with the sophisticated soul of ‘70s-era Stevie Wonder. “In the Meantime” embraces modern electronica sounds while delivering a message of patience and faith. The reggae feel of “Nothing Is Impossible” adds a summery twist to the proceedings. Norful doesn’t stint on his trademark ballads, offering such standouts as the elegantly rendered “No Greater Love” and the yearning “He Loves Me.” With production input from such studio veterans as Tony Dixon, Derek “D.O.A.” Allen, Elvis “Black Elvis” Williams, Aaron Lindsey, and Warryn Campbell, Forever Yours is as sonically impressive as it is spiritually uplifting.

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3:42
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About Smokie Norful

With his soulful tenor vocals and an unerring ability to fuse contemporary gospel with hip-hop sensibilities, Smokie Norful is one of the brightest lights on the current gospel scene. The son of an African Methodist Episcopal minister, Norful spent his first 14 years in Muskogee, OK, where he absorbed music ranging from sacred gospel to the secular soul that was popular at the time, and both strains would serve him well when he began his professional singing career. By the age of two he was picking out melodies on piano, by four he was actively playing and singing in his father's church, and by ten he was a featured artist on a custom album assembled by a regional music director. Although music was his enduring passion, Norful instead opted to study history at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, eventually working as a history instructor for four years before relocating to Chicago in 1998 in order to earn a Masters of Divinity degree from Garrett Theological Seminary.

After his graduation, Norful remained in Chicago as an assistant pastor at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church and stayed active in various church choirs, eventually catching the ear of Joe Anne Brunson, leader of the Thompson Community Choir, who asked him to sing one of his original songs for the choir's Real album, which essentially launched Norful's professional singing career. His debut solo album, I Need You Now, was released by Chordant in 2002, followed by a live album called Limited Edition from EMI Gospel in 2003. Norful has characterized his music as "urban inspirational," an apt term that allows him to stretch the boundaries of traditional gospel while still remaining true to its purpose. EMI Gospel also released Norful's second solo album, Nothing Without You, in 2004. Life Changing appeared in 2006, and in 2009, EMI Gospel released Smokie Norful Live. ~ Steve Leggett

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