Gospel singer and Baptist minister Smokie Norful's Worship & a Word series of CDs ($5.98 list) combines a full-length sermon with one song reflective of the sermon's theme. In Matters of the Heart, he warns that the sermon is "rated X … for extra real," and suggests that children be escorted out of the church. That probably isn't necessary, since Norful relies on allusive language and rhetorical flourishes to get his points across in an address that decries "ungodly" behavior, generally in personal relations between people. Norful's basic scriptural reference is what he calls "Matthew five and six" (i.e., the Biblical Book of Matthew, chapter five, verse six): "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." That is the King James version, but Norful also quotes the "amplified" version: "Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, uprightness, and right standing with God, for they shall be completely satisfied." This passage inspires him to preach about the importance of rooting emotional relationships in a faith in God rather than in, say, lust (a word he never actually uses, but which he frequently suggests), and he does so with increasing fervor over the course of 45 minutes, along the way taking swipes at premarital sex (again, without exactly putting it that way), homosexuality, and miscegenation. "In the Middle," the hip-hop gospel ballad that follows, confirms that God needs to be central to the success of a romantic connection.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann