Like any great singer, Faith Evans possesses the kind of voice that's instantly recognizable. It's at once fluid and emotive with an effervescent quality steeped in trademark gospel harmonies and phra

Like any great singer, Faith Evans possesses the kind of voice that's instantly recognizable. It's at once fluid and emotive with an effervescent quality steeped in trademark gospel harmonies and phrasing. Since Evans' 1995 debut with the now-classic "I Remember the Way You Used to Love Me," she has carved an indelible niche in the contemporary R&B landscape.

On the eve of the Nov. 6 release of her third album, "Faithfully" (Bad Boy/Arista), Evans is aware that her success hasn't come with the kind of massive crossover appeal of Destiny's Child or Brandy. The outgoing Evans, however, counts her blessings -- grateful that she has managed to build a loyal core fan base as opposed to a fickle one.

"I'm just happy to see the response for what I do," she says. "People on the street come up to me, which is really gratifying. Plus, I've had a lot of high points: winning a Soul Train Music award, a Grammy, and a Billboard award."

"I went from being a single mother of a year-old girl on welfare with food stamps to having a $2,500 check at week's end for singing demos for Al B. Sure!," she continues. "I signed with [Sean "P. Diddy" Combs] the first day I met him -- another blessing, as was being part of [late husband Notorious] B.I.G.'s life, seeing his incredible talent and what a strong, iconic force he was. Now, this new album is another high."

"Faithfully" was recorded in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami with principal producer Combs and co-producer Mario Winans contributing nine of the 14 songs. The majority of the cuts, such as the mellow, jazzy "Where We Stand," the consoling "Heaven Only Knows," and the catchy midtempo "Alone in This World," are devoid of overly busy production, relying on basic beats and instrumentation complemented by Evans' warm vocals.

"I also recorded 10 songs in three weeks with [producer] Battlecat in L.A.," adds Evans. Two songs from those sessions-the funk-inflected first single, "You Gets No Love," and the title track-made the final cut.

Evans' distinctive sound is partially due to her writing the majority of her material. She labors over every line.

"How I write is generally influenced by what's going on around me," Evans says. "If I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald all day before going in the studio, I may sing something in a jazzier vibe. When I recorded the single, the idea came from a girlfriend of mine who was telling me about this guy she'd just started seeing."

One song Evans didn't write is "I Love You," which was borne out of the former relationship between Combs and actress/singer Jennifer Lopez. "She's a co-writer on the song," says Evans, a Newark, N.J., native now based in Atlanta. "It almost slipped through the cracks and ended up on her album."

Bad Boy marketing director Tracey Warples calls "Faithfully" a "pivotal, transitional album" for Evans, who has plans to kick off a tour next year in support of the album. "She's refined [herself] so much musically, physically, and spiritually. And all of that is evident on this record. In the early stages of her career, she was piggy-backed off other Bad Boy artists, which certainly proved to be the right formula. But it's her time to stand alone and shine."

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