About the time Matthew McConaughey came out to thump on two stools that suspiciously resembled bongos while Jack Ingram was singing a goofy little number that appropriated his accompanist’s “Alright Alright Alright” catchphrase, we’d pretty much gotten to the heart of what Mack, Jack & McConaughey is all about.
“Now we’re in the fourth quarter, and Jack’s going to close us out,” former Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown had said a few minutes earlier, after announcing that the previous night’s gala auction and Dixie Chicks concert had raised more than $1.7 million for children’s charities. That, in a nutshell, is what these three fellows do together: Draw on the power of their notoriety to throw a big party for a good cause.
Five good causes, actually, in this case. The proceeds from MJ&M benefit CureDuchenne, the Dell Children’s Medical Center, HeartGift, the Just Keep Livin’ Foundation and the Rise School of Austin. In its first five years since launching in 2013, the annual two-day extravaganza raised more than $7.5 million on their behalf.
Ingram’s closing set, which carried the show just past the threshold of midnight, also included “Tin Man,” Miranda Lambert’s Grammy-nominated song that she co-wrote with Ingram and Jon Randall. It was the one reprisal from Thursday night, when Ingram and Randall prefaced the Dixie Chicks’ stellar show by playing the tune together.
Randall also played his own short set on Friday, one of more than a half-dozen songwriters who took a turn entertaining the crowd across a four-hour evening that began with an abbreviated additional auction. (Items included a guitar signed by all the event’s performers and a private pickin’ party with Ingram, Randall and Dierks Bentley.)
Night two of MJ&M is always a marathon and a mixed bag. You’re almost guaranteed to hear artists who are very much up your alley as well as one or two who are, well, not so much. The top night’s top draw, exquisite hometown hero Patty Griffin, went first, perhaps in part so that those who didn’t care so much for, say, the scatalogical humor of Bobby Pinson could depart early if they chose.
Butch Walker, a close friend and Malibu neighbor of McConaughey who’s made his name primarily as a producer, returned again this year after playing all previous MJ&M events. But it was first-timer Shawn Mullins who really got the crowd going down the stretch with his still-memorable 1990s hit “Rockabye.”
Those who stuck around for the long haul heard plenty more classics, including Randall’s “Whiskey Lullaby,” Radney Foster’s “Texas in 1880” (with a harmony assist from Ingram) and Bruce Robison’s wonderful “Wrapped,” which got the whole crowd singing along, much to his delight. Robison also brought out his wife, Kelly Willis, for a couple of tunes, including “Travelin’ Soldier,” the chart-topping 2002 hit for the Dixie Chicks that didn’t get played the night before.
Still, for all the well-known songs that got churned out, the one that may linger the longest came from probably the least-known performer on the bill. Oklahoma’s John Fullbright has played Austin enough to have some fans here, but most in the crowd probably had not heard his as-yet unrecorded tune “Stars.” Judging from the crowd response, which warranted the night’s only encore, it was the one song that every writer in the house Friday night envied.
More details about the annual event and its beneficiary charities are available at the MJ&M website.