Nothing Without You

Smokie Norful faces great expectations after his 2002 debut, "I Need You Now," turned gold on the strength of the album's title song, which became a gospel and R&B/hip-hop crossover smash.

Smokie Norful faces great expectations after his 2002 debut, "I Need You Now," turned gold on the strength of the album's title song, which became a gospel and R&B/hip-hop crossover smash. A wondrously gifted singer/ songwriter, Norful seems to soar without effort over the already high bar he has set for himself. His presence is as commanding on hooky, high-voltage R&B ("Can't Nobody," "Power") as it is sweet and silky on the acoustic guitar- and percussion-laced ballad "In the Middle." The dramatic, uplifting anthem "God Is Able" sounds like a preordained successor to "I Need You Now" and should cement Norful's place as one of the most significant new talents gospel music has yielded in a long, long time.—GE