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McCutcheon plays by the numbers: 22, 36

John McCutcheon

Nationally known folk musician John McCutcheon brings his traditional and original music to Crossings. He takes the stage at 7 p.m. Sunday June 8.

McCutcheon’s concert tour supports the release of his most recent album, “22 Days” released by Appalsongs Records – and the 36th CD he has released.

The album pays tribute to one musician’s compelling actions in the face of horrific violence.

In fact, the CD’s title is a reference to the 22-day musical vigil held for the 22 people killed by a mortar attack on the last operating bakery in Sarajevo, Bosnia, during the height of the Balkan War in 1992.

A musician named Vedran Smailovic, later dubbed the Cellist of Sarajevo, began showing up each morning at the hour of the attack and playing a single piece “Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor.”

For 22 days he captured attention, responding to tragedy and war with the simple weapons of courage and music.

Twenty years later, McCutcheon sat down to write in honor of his friend, Smailovic. For the next 22 days he wrote songs about courage, food and love.

Some of the songs are torn from today’s news. “Forgotten” was inspired by the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl targeted by the Taliban for her outspoken support of education for girls in her country.

“Nothing Like You” looks at the immigration debate through the eyes of an undocumented worker. “Tonight” takes the listener into the dark, broken heart of a former coal miner.

Other songs such as “Fitzgerald” or “Orion’s Belt” make history as real and important as today’s news, promoters said.

The Wausau, Wisconsin-born multi-instrumentalist plays the hammered dulcimer as easily as the banjo, the nyckelharpa as well as the guitar and adds in his voice and storytelling skills to create a unique concert experience.

Starting in his teens, McCutcheon wrote hundreds of songs and began garnishing a share of accolades.

His eclectic catalog of ballads, historical songs, children’s songs, love songs, topical satire and even symphonic works are among the broadest in American folk music. McCutcheon has also earned six Grammy nominations.

It’s performing for an audience that energizes McCutcheon, says the man who is both a consummate musician and a clear-eyed visionary.

The continent-hopping McCutcheon maintains a low-profile at home, making this concert a rare opportunity.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 day of show. To reserve tickets, visit, call 507-732-7616 or stop in to Crossings at 320 East Ave., Zumbrota.

If you go …

What: Musician John McCutcheon

When: 7 p.m. Sunday June 8

Where: Crossings at Carnegie, 320 East Ave., Zumbrota

Cost: $25 in advance, $28 at the door

More info: 507-732-7616 or

We asked, he answered…

Multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon took time to talk about musicians, music and Mozart.

Describe your earliest music-related memory.

I’d love to say it is my mother singing to me, but my memory is not that great. But my earliest musical memory does involve my mother. I had been making noise, around the age of 8, about wanting to take piano lessons. My mother scored some free tickets to a community concert series event that featured a piano soloist.

We got all dressed up, like we were going to church, and the two of us went. It was an amazing experience - everyone else dressed up, sitting in the high school auditorium, everyone all quiet and polite, watching one person up on stage, kinda like being in church. It was a religious experience of sorts. I left the auditorium that night thinking, “Wow, I’m a completely different person now. I want to do that again.” And, who knew?

If you could only play one instrument for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

What a tough one. The guitar is so portable and versatile, the piano has so many voices, and the fiddle is just so damn fickle, but I love it. I guess the guitar, for its portability.

What is the last thing you watched on T.V.?

The only thing I ever watch on TV now, thanks to Netflix, are Atlanta Braves games.

If you could perform with any artist – dead or alive – who would that be?

I’ve been lucky enough to perform with many amazing musicians, from Johnny Cash and Paul Simon to Pete Seeger. My first, knee-jerk reaction was Mozart - but who am I kidding? So I guess it’d be Woody Guthrie, just so I could hang with such a creative, cantankerous, audacious character.

What is one thing someone wouldn’t know about you?

I am a connoisseur of fine cigars … my one remaining vice.

“22 Days” is your 36th CD release. What are you proudest about on this album?

That, in mounting the 22-day writing retreat that resulted in this album, I was able to honor my friend Vedran Smailovic (the Cellist of Sarajevo), with songs that were both serious and funny, musically ecumenical, and some that might even last. He loved it and that’s the greatest compliment.