It is that American success that has shaped Adele’s follow-up album. It’s steeped in Southern blues, country and soul. In another singer’s hands this might seem a nakedly ambitious attempt to appeal to the American charts, but Adele makes the material sound genuine, largely because it is perfect for her. Where previously her slight, observational songs seemed barely able to carry her powerful voice, the emotional and musical heft of these styles enables her to really spread her vocal wings.
And her voice is a thing of wonder. There is warmth, power and vulnerability, sometimes in the same note. She has less of the unpredictable edge of Amy Winehouse, or the am-dram cool of Florence Welch, but she has a far greater range and subtlety than either, and hers is a voice that seems to go right to your heart.
Producers Rick Rubin and Paul Epworth have done the right thing by foregrounding that and leaving the musical background solid and unshowy. Whether she can sell American country sounds to a British audience remains to be seen, but avoiding the dancefloor pyrotechnics that so many singers are drawn to at the moment is a wise move — on this album she out-divas them all. – TT