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.

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 Mullins is an IBMA award-winning journalist and broadcaster from southwestern Ohio, with an American Studies degree from Cedarville University. He hosts the Walls of Time: Bluegrass Podcast and his daily radio program, The Daniel Mullins Midday Music Spectacular, on the Real Roots Radio network. He also serves as the station’s music director, programming country, bluegrass, and Americana music.