Bluebird begins its annual monthlong series benefiting Alive Hospice 

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

Alive at the Bluebird was going on long before ABC began beaming a perfect soundstage replica of the listening room's interior to millions of viewers on Wednesday nights. In fact, The Bluebird Cafe was on the big screen in The Thing Called Love the same year big names in songwriting started playing this series of in-the-rounds to benefit Alive Hospice.

The 21st edition of the fundraiser is happening through Feb. 1, every Tuesday through Saturday during the Bluebird's late show. The series has become an institution, just like the nonprofit it helps support. Alive Hospice was the first organization of its kind in Tennessee — since 1975, it has been providing comfort to those at the ends of their lives and their loved ones. It's fitting, then, that this year's nearly 100-strong lineup features not only Nashville's MVP of performing for good causes, Vince "Benefit" Gill, and his pop-gospel legend of a wife Amy Grant, but also a small army of post-'60s songwriting powerhouses, most of whom hit their strides in the '90s or later.

Anchoring the first round are folk-country singer-songwriters Ellen Britton, Sally Barris and Henry Hipkens, along with W.T. Davidson, who supplied uptown tunes to Crystal Gayle and Sylvia and had a blues number cut by both Ray Charles and Bettye LaVette. Other nights feature vets like '70s country-pop troubadour Larry Gatlin and Wood Newton, who scored a No. 1 with Razzy Bailey more than 30 years ago, and crafters of classics such as Mark D. Sanders ("I Hope You Dance") and Tony Arata ("The Dance"). Then there are well-known collaborators like longtime Toby Keith co-writer Scotty Emerick and Casey Beathard, who's become a go-to source for Eric Church; such suppliers of emotionally hefty country singles as Tom Douglas ("The House That Built Me") and Rivers Rutherford ("Smoke Rings in the Dark"); and performers you can't catch up close just any day, like a solo Kristian Bush, a latter-day Kim Carnes and Rissi Palmer, who's been rather quiet, save a children's album, in the half-decade since she became the rare African-American woman to get on the country charts. And those are just some of the hooks.

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