I like Adele Adkins well enough. Better than that, really. I thought her “21” album deserved every accolade it received. It’s a wonderful album, varied, soulful and bursting with heart. I have wondered how I would feel about her “25” if it had been the first of the two. It’s a fine album, more than pleasant. At times, it too touches the heart in those beautiful tender places. But as special records go? So far, it hasn’t sold me.
But then there’s Sara Bareilles’ “The Blessed Unrest.” I know, I know. It’s almost three years old now. But I never hear anyone talk about it. If there were hits from it, I didn’t catch them on the radio – not that I’m in tune anymore with the locations for hits or, for that matter, the crowds that make them. But, oh, this album is such a joy. People should be talking about it.
I had not thought of Sara Bareilles, especially considering her acceptably benign hit “King of Anything,” as my kind of artist. I tend more toward earthy blues, folk or traditional rock and roll. Annie Lennox, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Stevie Nicks. But then, I wouldn’t have thought of Adele Adkins as my kind of artist, either, and before I ever heard the full “21” album, I was so over-served on the overwhelmingly mediocre “Rolling in the Deep,” that it’s a wonder to me that I ever thought to give more of her music a try. Thankfully, I did, but even then, I wouldn’t put “21” or Adele into that class of artists – like Lennox, for instance – whom I don’t just like but admire. Perhaps that day will come, and I have to say it hasn’t come regarding Bareilles, either. But it is certainly closer, and, perhaps more to the point, I mention all this to emphasize the mistake in categorizing artists too quickly.
I’m glad I also did not make that mistake with “Blessed Unrest.” Even if you compare it to “21,” Bareilles’ work is more endearing. Her lyrics and melodies, both, richer and deeper. Her vocal tones, too, are so much sweeter and more melodic than Adele’s, her range almost incomparably broader. Her rhythms are easily as diverse, her themes vastly more varied. Every song is a well-polished gem. At least two, “Satellite Call” and “1000 Times,” send me into the spiritual stratosphere whenever I hear them.
It’s really not fair to just pick two artists out of the blue and compare them. And, to be sure, if one were to do a serious comparison of Adele Adkins and Sara Bareilles, it would be much deeper, more specific and complex than these few scribbles here. But if you love Adele but don’t know “Blessed Unrest,” I encourage you to give a listen to Bareilles’ album. You’ll be moved, and, I suspect, hooked.