What does Adele’s big night mean for bluegrass?

If any of you tuned in to the Grammys last night, or have followed any of the coverage, you surely noticed one name that has been making headlines: Adele.

Adele tied Beyonce’s record for the most Grammys brought home in one night with six awards. Her latest studio album, 21, won Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year. Her powerful song, Someone Like You, won Best Pop Solo Performance, and her smash hit, Rolling In The Deep, won Best Short Form Music Video, Song Of The Year, and Record Of The Year. The British songstress is the #1 solo artist in the world right now. I bet you’re probably asking yourself, “What does this have to do with bluegrass?” Actually, a LOT!

Sierra Hull covered Someone Like You for CMT this past summer, but Adele’s ties to bluegrass run much deeper. On expanded editions of her Album of the Year, 21, Adele included a bonus track, a Steeldrivers’ song written by Chris Stapleton, If It Hadn’t Been For Love. She does a very bluesy rendition which many of you will enjoy. She has also recently released a live CD/DVD where she performs If It Hadn’t Been For Love complete with banjo!

When she participated in the iTunes festival last year, she expressed her admiration for The Steeldrivers and encouraged everyone to check them out.

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Many of you may know that Adele endured throat surgery recently. You may not know that while recuperating, she took time in the United States to learn more about American music, and fell in love with bluegrass – which is perfectly understandable to me!. Adele has made it known that her next album, 23, will reflect her new-found interest in bluegrass. It’s always encouraging to find a top artist willing to learn more about our type of music, as well as classic country.

As she told The Sun

“I was exposed to a lot of country, rockabilly, and bluegrass because I was touring for such a long time. The melodies and to-the-point lyrics I have found in a lot of American styles of music is definitely something I’m going to be pursuing heavily from now on. I want to spend some time in Austin in Texas, and in Nashville, Tennessee, and learn about it.”

There has been a good bit of chatter in the music world since the news broke that Adele would be recording a bluegrass-influenced album. To have the number one artist in the WORLD cut a bluegrass project could be a real turning point for our music. I am getting giddy just thinking about it!

This has the potential to be for bluegrass what Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music was to classic country. Willie Nelson has claimed that Charles did more for country music than any single artist, through just that one album. Ray introduced audiences to country music who may never have heard it otherwise, and the seeming incongruity of a hit-making rhythm and blues singer doing a country record generated barrels of ink in the music press.

Could Adele do the same thing for contemporary bluegrass in the 21st century? The possibilities are endless as far as opening doors to a much larger market go.

I am anxiously awaiting more news about Adele and bluegrass, and will definitely keep everyone informed at Bluegrass Today.

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About the Author

Daniel Mullins

Daniel is from southwestern Ohio and has been around bluegrass his entire life. He manages the Classic Country Connection, a music store in southern Ohio which specializes in bluegrass, classic country, gospel, and Americana music. He is the host of the Bending The Strings radio program, which plays a variety of bluegrass, newgrass, and Americana music. He also maintains the website for Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers. photo by LuAnn Adams

  • Finally – a connection to get my wife and daughter as excited about bluegrass as I am!

    • oh i know! i mean, i’m sure everyone of us knows at least ONE person who is an Adele fan and has never showed an interest in bluegrass. if all of us could get that ONE person to pay attention to bluegrass through Adele, bluegrass fans would double. just a thought.

  • Dennis Jones

    In todays money $.02.

  • Russ Jordan

    It’s gonna mean more than $.02 to whoever writes something she records. Heck, maybe it will be a Tim Massey or Shawn Lane song!

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  • Dennis Jones

    What’s the odds on either of them getting a cut on a project? Ronnie Bowman…maybe.

    • Jon Weisberger

      Seems like I might remember folks saying the same thing 10 years ago – “what are the odds?” – about Ronnie Bowman getting cuts with Lee Ann Womack, Brooks & Dunn and Kenny Chesney.

      • haha. so true, Jon. i would also have loved to see the Vegas odds two years ago for Adele recording a Chris Stapleton song, and yet, here we are talking about it…

      • As the song says, “What is to be will be. What ain’t to be just might happen.”