Out of the Forge: April 13, 2017

Out of the Forge: April 13, 2017

Out of the Forge: April 13, 2017

by John Fitzsimmons | Out of the Forge

In my forty years or so of actively singing and playing folk music and writing songs, I have played together with a remarkably narrow list of musical partners: Rogue, Wally and Barry with camp songs and Hatrack and Seth with literally everything. These last few years I have been playing some with Keith Jacques, Tom Sheppard and Geoff Copley, but really, it has either been me alone or me and Hatrack and Seth.

I could certainly do worse—or I should say, I don’t think I (or anyone) could do better. In many ways I am a victim of myself. I learned to play on my own and then I played and performed alone for a solid ten years before meeting Seth and Hatrack. My playing was rarely formal in any sense of the word. I played in any key that worked for me; I was loose with accepted ways of playing any song, and I was more loose with beat and meter. If I felt like slowing down, I would just slow down—and vice verse with speeding up. If some part of a song reminded me of a story, I would just hang on a chord until the story was told. I began songs with my own arbitrary count-in that was more like “Ready, set, go…” than “One, two, three, four…” 

None of that ever seemed to matter with Seth and Hatrack. They would just go with the flow. They still go with the flow in patient and accepting ways, though I can sometimes see the wry rolling of their eyes as I started a song in three different keys before finding that elusive sweet key. We harmonize amazingly well, though I know nothing about harmony, aside from hearing them banter about who will take the third and who will take the fifth.

I have been spoiled and nurtured by their collective genius. Seth on anything with strings and Hatrack on the harmonica. Really, few musicians are their equals. I am just incredibly blessed to have them as friends and musical mates.

When I play Thursday night in The Forge, which is advertised as “Fitz & Friends,” I never know which friend or friends is going to show, or if any friends will show. Sometimes “friends” is just the audience already there.

Tonight the friend was Hatrack who wandered in just as I was starting. My Bose system is only set up to record my vocal and guitar, so it is hard to get the real effect (and affect) of Hatrack’s inimitable virtuosity as he played along with me throughout a two hour set, but he is there in a regrettably muted way. Someday I hope to find a better way to record than the somewhat primitive method I am using, but for now, strain your ears to hear what Hatrack brings, which is as much in spirit as it is in skill.

Tonight was a fun night, full of requests for songs I rarely play, so my apologies up front for any lyrical adjustments I made trying to remember lyrics—especially on “Suzanne,” by Leonard Cohen, a damn good song that I plan to put back into my “list” in a more regular way.

Thanks for stopping by to listen. I do this for those friends of mine scattered around the world who still want a “taste of the inn,” though it is a watered down taste at best.

Out of the Forge: April 6, 2017

Out of the Forge: April 6, 2017

Some nights I feel like I am singing in a mall. Tonight–in a fun way–it felt a bit like I walked into the Natick mall at Christmas time and pulled out my guitar in front of the Apple store and started to play, but like every night down at the inn it evolved into a fun few sets mingled with some old ballads and some classic old sing-a-longs. My high school football coach, Dick Dimare, was waked at Charlie Dee’s, and so a number of my old football buddies showed up, so we enjoyed some good remembrances of a truly exceptional old-school coach. I remembered how he seemd to find a way to make each and every one of us feel like we were God’s gift to CC Football. I still enjoy, too, getting “razzed” by my old buddies who all grew up with me in a different time in Concord.

A part of me wished the night was more quiet and reflective, so I could share my old Concord songs–songs that are still etched in my head, but which I rarely play live. But still those songs live in a heart shaped and formed by a now long ago echo of a great childhood and batch of friends. I’ve always dreamed of just spending a night at the inn reliving and replaying those raspy, hard-bitten songs, for even in the lap of past joy there is the lingering smoke of trying times.

As often happens, too, people show who want or are willing to play with me–and often in place of me–and that also goes a long way to perfecting the joy of singing in a small hometown bar. Geoff Copley joined me for a fun batch of songs at the end of the night with his always tasteful guitar and laconic Irish wit. The hard part of recording the way I do is I only have my vocal mic and a guitar mic, so the full power of Geoff’s playing is too far back in the mix to get the full effect of how good it is–that and it always sounds like I talking to myself and not with the crowsd. A hockey playing friend of Denise and Will, Suzanne Freidman, also showed up and performed a heartfelt and awesome batch of songs–some original, some covers, but she really got the crowd’s attention, and a big and boisterous crowd it was. 

I can’t say I felt proud of my own work tonight. It is pretty humbling to hear myself singing and trying to get into some kind of flow. If anything, I feel like my voice is a bit too forced, my playing too fast, my banter too long and my memory stumbling along some unfamiliar verses, but as Bill Belechick says, It is what it is…”

So maybe next week I’ll do better. A folksinger like me is like an old fisherman who at least gets to point to next week and think, “Yeah, next week will be better.”

Thanks for stopping by my humble blog. Come by for the real thing sometime.  And bring your guitar 😉 

Out of the Forge: March 30, 2017

Out of the Forge: March 30, 2017

Every Thursday Night at The Colonial Inn
On the Green, in Concord, Massachusetts

March 30, 2017

by John Fitzsimmons | Out of the Forge

This is my first attempt at trying to record a night at the inn, so please forgive my engineering errors as a producer. I simply used the Bose Tonematch into Garageband and called it good enough for a first try. It was a pretty quiet and mellow night tonight with an appreciative crowd of locals, some old freinds and some folks who just showed up out of curiosity, so I got the chance to play a lot more quiet songs and some old ballads, which is always good for my soul. My good buddy Declan McDade showed up and played a few songs. He is the real McCoy of an Irish folksinger–though he plays very few Irish songs, at least yet.

As a performer, hearing my night in its totality is more than a bit humbling, but also strangly empowering. After thirty-three years singing in the same bar, I feel at ease with myself and the songs I know, and and feel driven to learn more songs and play them better.

At any rate, here is me, for what it’s worth… 

“A masterful weaver of songs whose deep, resonant voice rivals the best of his genre…”

Spirit of Change Magazine

“Beneath the friendly charisma is the heart of a purist gently leading us from the songs of our lives to the timeless traditional songs he knows so well…”

Globe Magazine

Fitz’s original music…

Trawler

Leave the fog stillness
of a cold harbor town;
cup our hands
in the warm diesel sound—
leave while the children
are calmed in their dreams
by light buoys calling:
“Don’t play around me.”

Listen...

Zenmo Yang Ni

I lost the time I hardly knew you,
half-assed calling:
“How you doing?
Laughing at my hanging hay field;
I never knew the time
that tomorrow’d bring,
until it brung to me.

Yuan lai jui shuo: “Zenmoyang ni?”
Xianzai chang shu: “Dou hai keyi”;
Xiexie nimen, dou hen shang ni.
Xiwang wo men dou hen leyi
Dou hen leyi

Listen...

Weekend Custody

Jesse calls up this morning—
“You can come downstairs now;
You see the grapefruit bowl?
Well, I fixed it all;
I fixed everything for you.”

Everything’s for you…

“Let me help you make the coffee,
Momma says you drink it too.
I can’t reach the stove,
But I can pour it, though—
What’s it like living alone?”

Listen...

Calvary

It seems like it ain’t been a long time,
But I’m damn pleased your coming by again.
It’s been a while since we sat down and rambled
About this and that and why and who and then
You said that you had to get a move on,
Move on and leave a space behind.
So I spent a while hitting all those old roads:
Old friends and kicking down the wine.

Listen...

Metamorphoses

It’s something I‘ve hardly ever thought of:
this simple and rattling old diesel
has always gotten me there and then some;
and so at first I think this sputtering
is just some clog, and easily explained:
some bad fuel maybe, from the new Exxon,
or just shortsightedness on maintenance.
I’ve always driven in the red before,
and these have all been straight highway miles —

Listen...

Ring of Fire: The Power of Simplicity

In fifth grade my mother finally let me go to the Concord Music store and buy a "45" single.  I bought Johnny Cash’s version of “Ring of Fire” written by his future wife June Carter and Merle Kilgore, a noted country songwriter of his day. There was no doubt in my...
Listen...

Out of the Forge: April 13, 2017

In my forty years or so of actively singing and playing folk music and writing songs, I have played together with a remarkably narrow list of musical partners: Rogue, Wally and Barry with camp songs and Hatrack and Seth with literally everything. These last few years...
Listen...

Ghetto of Your Eye

I wrote this song back in the winter of 1989, in the dining car of a steam driven train, somewhere along the Trans-Siberian railway, after meeting a group of Russian soldiers fresh from battle in Afghanistan—that poor country that has been a battleground for way too long.

We stare together hours the snow whipped Russian plain—
rolling in the ghetto of your eye.
We share a quart of vodka
and some cold meat on the train—
you know too much to even wonder why;
I see it in the ghetto of your eye.

Listen...

Out of the Forge: March 30, 2017

Every Thursday Night at The Colonial Inn On the Green, in Concord, Massachusetts This is my first attempt at trying to record a night at the inn, so please forgive my engineering errors as a producer. I simply used the Bose Tonematch into Garageband and called it good...
Listen...

Many Miles To Go

I see it in your eyes
and in the ways you try to smile;
in the ways you whisper—I don’t know—
and put it all off for a while;
then you keep on keeping on
in the only way you know:
you’re scared of where you’re going
and who’ll catch you down below.

Listen...

Superman

There’s a little blonde boy in a superman cape
Racing around the back yard;
Sayin’, “Daddy don’t you know I can fly to the moon;
I’m gonna bring you back some stars.
And after that I’m gonna save the world”
Cause I’m superman today.”
I scoop that boy right into my arms,
And this is what I say:

You don’t need a cape to be a hero
You’ve got all the special powers that you need
Your smile’s enough to save the world from evil
And you’ll always be superman to me

Listen...

Garden Woman

I woke today and had my tea
and at the window spent the morning:
the same scene I’ve seen so many times
is each day freshly born;
from the ground I turn each spring and fall
come the flowers sweetly blooming;
you disappear among the weeds—
you are the garden woman.

Listen...

No Dad To Come Home To

Rain’s falling outside of Boston—
Thank God I’m not working tonight.
I’ve got six of my own,
And a stepdaughter at home,
And a momma keeping things right.
I wonder if they’re at the table
With their puzzles, their papers and pens?
When I get off the highway
And pull in that driveway,
Will they run to the window again?

Listen...

No Dad To Come Home To

Rain’s falling outside of Boston—
Thank God I’m not working tonight.
I’ve got six of my own,
And a stepdaughter at home,
And a momma keeping things right.
I wonder if they’re at the table
With their puzzles, their papers and pens?
When I get off the highway
And pull in that driveway,
Will they run to the window again?

Listen...

Somewhere North of Bangor

Somewhere north of Bangor
on the run from Tennessee.
Lost in back scrub paper land
in section TR-3.
It’s hit him he’s an outlaw
a Georgia cracker’s son,
who killed a man in Nashville
with his daddies favorite gun.
It’s hit him with the loneliness
of wondering where you are
on a long ago railway
stretched between two stars.

Listen...

Essex Bay

This house makes funny noises
When the wind begins to blow.
I should have held on and never let you go.
The wind blew loose the drainpipe.
You can hear the melting snow.
I’ll fix it in the morning when I go.
I’ll fix it in the morning when I go.

Listen...

Life Ain’t Hard; Its Just a Waterfall

You say, hey,
who are you to say that you’re the one
to go telling me just where I’m coming from.
You can have your cake
but don’t frost me ‘til I’m done.
I can’t be fixed and I can’t afford to stall;
because life ain’t hard it’s just a waterfall.

Listen...

Out of the Forge: April 6, 2017

Some nights I feel like I am singing in a mall. Tonight--in a fun way--it felt a bit like I walked into the Natick mall at Christmas time and pulled out my guitar in front of the Apple store and started to play, but like every night down at the inn it evolved into a...
Listen...

Winter in Caribou

I know your name. It’s written there.
I wonder if you care.
A six-pack of Narragansett beer,
Some Camels and the brownie over there.
Every day I stop by like I
Got some place I’ve got to go;
I’m buying things I don’t really need:
I don’t read the Boston Globe.

But I, I think that I
Caught the corner of your eye.
But why, why can’t I try
To say the things I’ve got inside
To you ….

Listen...

Shane

It’s been too long feeling sorry for myself.
It’s been too long with my life up on the shelf.
Sometimes wish that I was Shane—
shoot Jack Palance, and disappear again;
don’t have no one
don’t want no one
don’t miss no one:
living lonely with a saddle and a gun.

Listen...

Don’t Let Go of Your Soul

Sometimes yeah.
Sometimes no.
Sometimes it’s somehow somewhere in between.
Sometimes it’s somewhere that no one has been–
no, nobody, nowhere, no nothing can end.
So don’t you let go and hope you’ll find it again.
Don’t you ever let go–

Listen...

Last of the Boys

Come on over here
and I’ll buy the next round:
cold beer and some shooters
for the boys on the town;
Darby ain’t drinkin’
so let’s live it up
‘cause he’ll drive us all home
in his company truck

Jesus Christ, Jimmy,
man you say that you’re well;
I say we drive into Boston
and stir up some hell;
put a cap on the weekend,
a stitch in the night,
watch the Pats play on Sunday
and the welterweight fight.

That’s all she wrote boys,
there ain’t any more;
that’s why we’re standing here;
that’s what it’s for.
That’s why we all go on working all day
busting our ass for short pay:
~Hey…

Listen...

Searching for an Alibi

Here I am out on the road again
and it feels longer than it was back then;
when I was younger, man, it saw me through—
now it don’t do
what I want it to—

Too ra loo ra loo ra lady I—
I’m just out searching for an alibi
Too ra loo ra loo ra lady I
I’m just out searching for an alibi.

Listen...

Ghetto of Your Eye

A Veteran's Day Remembrance I wrote this song back in the winter of 1989 in the dining car of a steam driven train, somewhere along the Trans-Siberian railway, after meeting a group of Russian soldiers fresh from battle in Afghanistan—that poor country that has been a...
Listen...

Joshua Sawyer

I doubt I’d ever have taken this road
had I known how fallen it really was
to disrepair: driving comically,
skirting ruts and high boulders, grimacing
at every bang on the oil pan.
I tell you it’s the old road to Wendell —
that they don’t make them like this anymore.

Listen...

The American Folk Experience

The American Folk Experience is my way of collecting, curating, researching and sharing the most enduring songs of our musical heritage—songs that I’ve spent the better part of the last forty years performing in pubs,  and schools, on concert-stages and street-corners, and at camps, festivals and celebrations of all kinds. Every performance, workshop and presentation is a joyful and knowledgable celebration and exploration of the timeless songs and stories that have shaped and formed the musical history of America.

Festivals & Celebrations —Coffeehouses —School Assemblies — Library Presentations —Songwriting Workshops —Artist in Residence — House Concerts —Pub Singing — Irish & Celtic Performances — Campfires —Senior Centers —Voiceovers & Recording

Explore The Ancient Ballads

Songs passed through time...

Recordings, History & Resources...

American Folksongs & Ballads

 

Recordings, History & Resources...

 

Songs of the Sea & Fo'castle

Recordings, History & Resources...

Calvary

Calvary

by John Fitzsimmons | Out of the Forge

I teach a couple of 8th and 9th grade English classes, and as a part of the classes I make them all keep online journals that we comment on and share with each other. It’s actually pretty cool. A hot topic always seems to be the belief—or not—in God. I am usually pretty impressed by the depth of their convictions, as well as the honesty of their confusions. Although I worked for a number of years as a youth minister, and even to this day trot my kids off to Sunday school, I am still somewhat agnostic—I just can’t totally convince myself that my spiritual experience reflects an eternal and immutable truth. But I can’t doubt that I do feel a power beyond what I am and who we are. I know I’ve experienced moments incapable of words. In those times I’ve felt closest to God, but the rush of even that wave cannot be sustained on the shores of my earthly life.

 

I guess you have to let go of what you cannot hold on to. Catholicism teaches that hell is being eternally separated from the God you know and love and feel. That, at least, makes sense to me. And maybe that is why I can still teach Sunday School. Maybe it’s why I can listen to and love my friends who think I’m a complete fool for even being a part of what they consider idiocy. In my cloud of unknowing I wait for the parting that will let in the light—the true and sustained experience of God.

 

I sometimes wonder though why we are in such a rush to know God. I wonder what we’ll say to each other when we finally meet, and I wonder how we’ll act with each other. Being brought up a Christian, I’ve always imagined what it would be like to be one of the Apostles. I’ve always wondered what Jesus said to them in private to give them the courage and eloquence to go forward and make the sacrifices they made. I’ve imagined sitting down with Jesus and fishing for horned-pout in the Concord River because I figure Jesus has already returned many times over, but we just haven’t reached that stage where we look in the right places and embrace the right kind of people to find him.  I’ve always wanted new words from Jesus to give me directly a true faith that I could freely live and speak, and act, so I wrote this song about meeting up with Jesus down by the Concord River in hopes that maybe someday it will happen.

~Fitz

 

It seems like it ain’t been a long time,
But I’m damn pleased your coming by again.
It’s been a while since we sat down and rambled
About this and that and why and who and then
You said that you had to get a move on,
Move on and leave a space behind.
So I spent a while hitting all those old roads:
Old friends and kicking down the wine.

But sure enough got sick of all the rambling;
The same stories and the way folks just are.
Who’d believe a hobo and a rucksack?
Who’d believe I really come that far?
Panning bread don’t give you much to walk on;
And I ain’t so free I don’t want nothing more.
It ain’t so hard to say what I believe in,
But what’s the sense to beg it door to door?

So I settled down right here by the oxbow.
I catch kibbers off the bank that’s caving in.
I’m sure glad you brung along your old lines;
We’ll chuck ’em out and catch a string again.

Yeah, I settled down right here by the oxbow.
I catch kibbers off the bank that’s caving in.
I’m sure glad you brung along your old lines;
We’ll chuck ’em out and catch a string again.

Weekend Custody

Weekend Custody

by John Fitzsimmons | Out of the Forge

Years ago, back in the late 80’s and after another extended trip to China, I came back to my cabin in Carlisle and began the process of recording some of the songs I’d been writing since I first learned a few chords. Few of these songs had ever been recorded and they only existed in vestiges of memories in tattered old journals and spiral notebooks. I booked some time in Bob Wey’s studio and sat in from of a mic and recorded songs such as this one, which I later released as a “cassette” called “Winter in Caribou” that I sold at my gigs and shows.  My good friend and guitar legend, Eric Schoenberg, stopped by the studio one day and added a bit of sweetness to the this song with his playing.

Now, another twenty years later, I am collecting and curating a collection of these old and almost forgotten songs into a project called “Dogs of Concord.” Concord was my hometown and is still the place where I work and sing and “hang out.” For better or worse, it is the place that fed–and continues to feed–the creative part of my soul. It is a much different town now than when I grew up, but the memories remain the same–and that is what Dogs of Concord is trying to recapture. So over the next weeks and months, I will be adding songs from that “era” of my life into this site.

I hope you enjoy!

~Fitz
Jesse calls up this morning—
“You can come downstairs now;
You see the grapefruit bowl?
Well, I fixed it all;
I fixed everything for you.”

Everything’s for you…

“Let me help you make the coffee,
Momma says you drink it too.
I can’t reach the stove,
But I can pour it, though—
What’s it like living alone?”

It’s like living ‘lone…

“Daddy, did you ever play soccer?
There’s a girl’s team at the school;
Joe said he’d show me how;
I got two daddies now—
But you can show me too.”

Yeah, I’ll show you too…

“Remember Friday night out bowling,
trying to make the pins fall down:
One time you missed them all;
That’s called a gutterball—
Just like the things up on the roof.”

The things up on the roof…

“Wasn’t last night a dumb movie?
Them outer space things weren’t real.
Weren’t they fake and stuff?
Did you have enough?
Pretty soon I got to go.”

Soon you gotta’ go…

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