Coming together for a worthy cause is at the core of country music, and Trace Adkins pulled together a dynamic roster on Wednesday (March 21) for Jammin’ to Beat the Blues in benefit of Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee. Adkins was joined by fellow artists and friends Blake Shelton, Craig Morgan, High Valley and Christian superstars MercyMe and Jason Crabb at the hallowed Ryman Auditorium to support the organization that offers a variety of services and programs that help improve the quality of life for those living with mental illnesses.
“I didn’t set out to make it this way, it just was a natural thing,” Adkins says of the eclectic lineup, calling the performers “world class vocalists.” “These folks are all singers. I’m very proud of that.” Crabb and MercyMe ignited the Ryman stage with their powerful vocals, as MercyMe opened their set with the famous “I Can Only Imagine,” that’s been adapted into a feature film starring Adkins, and closing with their equally awe-inspiring single, “Even If.” Lead singer Bart Millard said Adkins’ invitation was all they needed to participate, calling events such as this “dear to our hearts” that “hit close to home.”
“It’s just an honor to be a part of it. It’s an amazing cause,” Millard said of the benefit show that’s one of the biggest events related to mental health awareness in the state. “It’s definitely something people need to be more aware of,” he continues about mental health. “I think the biggest problem is that people downplay the issue of mental health and just say it’s not a big deal until it’s too late. If we can cause awareness and give people the courage to speak up or get the help they need, then how is it not a win-win.”
The crowd was thoroughly entertained by Shelton’s three-song set that included some of his biggest hits “All About Tonight,” “Ole Red” and “Honey Bee” after Morgan treated the packed house to two new moving tracks, “Taste of Whiskey” and “Soldier,” the latter of which found his friend and the song’s writer Gavin DeGraw thrilling fans with a surprise appearance. But it’s the importance of mental health and giving back to others that inspired these artists to participate.
“I think as entertainers, anytime that we are given the opportunity to utilize our platform to better our community and provide some additional services or anything like that, I think we should,” Morgan says. One aspect of the organization he feels a personal connection with is its Aging & Alzheimer’s program that provides classes, consultations and training for caregivers working with people who have Alzheimer’s.
“One of my closest friends in the whole world right now is going through it with his father. It’s a difficult thing,” the singer says, adding it’s important that he and his fellow entertainers raise money and awareness for such a cause. “Mental health in general, I think if we can focus on that and we can figure out how we can identify it, recognize it and document it in such a way that we’re not imposing on an individual’s freedoms, I think we’ll alleviate a lot of problems that we’re having in this country.”
Following the uplifting performances, Adkins and Shelton proved how they turn their longtime friendship into a comedic act as they ended the show with their amusing duet, “Hillbilly Bone,” closing out an evening filled with engaging songs that served as a spotlight for an important issue, all in honor of the organization that’s working to change it for the better.