Bucket List is not a young man’s record. The pandemic forced McCutcheon to take a break from decades of constant touring and just chill. The title track list all the things John hoped to see in his life, from dusk at Machu Pichu to Stonehenge at the solstice. McCutcheon declares that there is no place like home and is ready to turn the bucket over and settle down. The song, and to an extent the entire album is an expression of contentment with a life well lived.
John’s contentment with being an elder makes me think of my relatives who have recently retired from jobs they hated. “Be Still” and “It’s Not” are reflections on past encounters and savoring the quiet thrill of being home.
McCitcheon being McCutcheon he’s got some tunes evoke emotions to at least get you choked up if not quietly shedding a tear. “Atonement” is a story song about a man who committed racist crimes as a youth and as a adult is trying to make amends. “Ghost Town” is a tour of a man without a hometown to return to. In the ghost town, the man finds everything he remembers but finds nothing to return to. In this sense, McCutcheon always reminds me of Stan Rogers, who’s “First Christmas Alone,” never fails to bring a lump to my throat.
McCutcheon isn’t one to just tug the heartstrings. He’s also good at giving bits of experience or history that are uplifting. Bucket List ends with one of these songs. “Zilphia’s Piano” recounts the rippling impact of a teacher and her old piano across generations. Zilphia isn’t a national hero. Zilphia is just that dedicated person who made a difference. That’s the kind of hero I think we can all aspire to be.