“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

The Ancient Ballads

The American Folk Experience

The American Folk Experience is dedicated to collecting and curating the most enduring songs from our musical heritage.  Every performance and workshop is a celebration and exploration of the timeless songs and stories that have shaped and formed the musical history of America. John Fitzsimmons has been singing and performing these gems of the past for the past forty years, and he brings a folksy warmth, wry humor and massive repertoire of songs to any occasion. 

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

Ancient Ballads

Remembered Songs Passed through Time…

It is fine and rare night in a pub when a napkin with a song request is passed up to the stage, and I read the scrawled words and see the like of “Barbara Allen,” “The House Carpenter” or “Mattie Groves.”  For me it is like being given the go signal to move in a new direction, to take tar audience on a new journey down a road or river few of them have ever travelled—the road of the ancient ballads. The ancient ballads, as remembered and sung by the early colonists have their roots in the deepest—and often the darkest—recesses of in what is now Europe and Scandinavia. These ballads, while simple in structure and melody, are charged with an emotionally complex underlayment that has somehow managed to keep these songs alive in spite of the diaspora of moving to and settling in to a new world.

In my own recordings of The Ancient Ballads, I have tried to keep things simple—as simple as the ancient times dictated. Oftentimes, even the faint strum of a guitar seems more distractive than attractive; but, that is for you to decide.

This initial compilation of old ballads, is simply a scratching at the surface of the ballad tradition, but these are the ballads I know best; hence it seems like the best place to start.

And maybe for you, too…

Explore The Ancient Ballads…

More from John Fitzsimmons…

“When the eyes rest on the soul…that’s Fitzy…”

Lenny Megliola

WEEI Radio

How To Be Human

Mark Twain once wrote that it is good to be a good person, but it is better to tell people how to be good--"and a damn sight easier!" So much of my life is lived in response to the moment and not in a practiced and cultivated wisdom. I sat here this morning looking...
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The Snow

has dropped a seamlessness before the plows and children can patch it back to a jagged and arbitrary quilting putting borders to design and impulse. I imagine myself falling everywhere softly, whispering, I am here, and I am here.
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Waiting for a Poem

  It’s not like a poem to come curl by my feet on this morning too beautiful to describe, though I am looking and listening and waiting: A rooster crows above the low hum of morning traffic; the trash truck spills air from brakes and rattles empties into bins; my...
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The people, the music filledness of rush hour traffic skirting puddles work crews packing in laughswearingmudyellowed slickers lighting candle bombs. My sadness the euphoric detachment. I love this town. It breathes me.
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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.

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I am always molting; leaving my hollowed skin in awkward places, scaring people and making them jump. They touch me and think I’m real; then laugh and say things like “What a riot.” I’m tired of this changing of skins. I’d rather stumble on myself and be fooled; and...
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Crows & Swallows Release

There is seldom a red-carpet celebration when a book of poetry is released, so I will keep this a quiet and humble affair. My newest book of poetry, “Crows & Swallows” is now on iBooks, so fresh you can almost smell the ink. My business model is unchanged: It is a...
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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 —

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A Hard Sell

     As a teacher, I am tired of the word blog, probably because the word “blogging” is incredibly limiting and myopic, especially for someone whose teaching is centered around an online curriculum with blogs front and center on my academic table. I sat through a...
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What’s in a Song

Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet. ~Plato         Writing a song is not just an exercise in seeking some kind of future fame. It is...
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You Are All a Bunch of Punks

Poetry without form is like tennis without a net. ~Robert Frost       Free verse poetry is not, as many assume, poetry without rules. It is a measured and thoughtful crafting of an idea into lines, spaces, and breaks intentionally and willfully crafted to heighten and...
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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.

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I’ve stopped the chinks with newspaper and rags wedged tightly against the wind blowing cold three days now. I feed the fire and curse its hissing and steaming mixing green oak with sticks of dried pine calling myself Raccoon grown fat in the suburbs sleeping in...
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Let It Snow, Let It Snow…

You can't kill time without wounding eternity. ~Henry David Thoreau       Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...but don't let it totally define your day. Most of us see a snow day as an unexpected vacation day, though really what it is could be called "a day of...
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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...
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The Small Potato

Maybe there is a God. I just came home and sat down in the kitchen to grade some papers and input some grades, but the internet is buggy and slow, and I thought, "maybe this is the message" that I am trading my soul for work. I even remember myself  pontificating in...
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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

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A Monday Ramble

There is always a hard shift for me at the end of the summer, and today is that day for me. I miss the freedom of last week: I'd wake in the morning, come out to the deck to write poetry or work on my novel--but now today, I feel like I should be preparing for school,...
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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.

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What a Picture Tells

"Zou Ma Guan Hua" You can't ride a horse and smell the flowers ~Chinese Proverb Sometimes I love just browsing through old folders of pictures of my kids when they were just kids in every sense of the word. Just seeing the pictures is a visceral experience for me as I...
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In Reply To Einstein

*God casts the die, not the dice. ~Alfred Einstein I am cold down the neck, turtling my head to showers of ice that fall dancing and skidding on skins of crusted snow. I hold my breath when I step, inflating hopes of a weightlessness, and so be undetected
to the play...
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The Threshing

I trace her charging through the cornfield shaking the timbers of the ready crop startling up the blackbirds, and surprisingly, a jay. It’s the jay who startles me—
who with two quick pulls wrests itself from the transient green, screaming back from its familiar scrub...
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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?

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China Journal: Part One

I           The dull staccato throb in light rain on a dark night. Unseen barges make their way up the QianTian River—concrete shores marked by the arch of the bridge, the spans of beam stretched on beam, the impeccable symmetry of the street-lights broken by a stream...
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The coyotes and fisher cats seem intent on striking some new deal with each other to toy with our fears in this gentleman's wilderness— patches of dense woods dotted with overgrown fields, riven and intersected by highways, powerlines and quiet, suburban...
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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...
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The Tide

They are building a world and the plastic is fading: Margaret and Eddie's buckets are split, pouring out the warm Atlantic as they race along the tidal flat, filling pools connected by frantically dug canals. Tommy squats naked and screams in guttural joy at the...
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Canobie lake

Going to Canobie Lake is always the turning point of the year for me. It is like some primal signal that It is time to turn away from the school year and towards the future.  Obviously, it is my hope that you learned some useful skills this year, but, more...
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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 ….

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Raccoon Welcome

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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?

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The Next Time Around

        I wonder what the years have really taught me about writing and music. I have gotten so used to preaching and teaching that I am a bit looped by the thought of writing—as in how I wrote before (or how I will claim I wrote) before settling into this somewhat...
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Dealing with Ether

Trying to only see what is in front of me my eyes are continually drawn away from this page and the work left to be done— my labored words etched and scratched away like fleeting mosaics in dry sand. I need a windowless cell to work the alchemy that shapes the...
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Moaning like a lost whale the thin ice bellowed behind us then cracked and rang as if spit from a whip. The sharp steel of my over-sized skates etched unspeakable joy into the slate-grey, reptilian skin of Walden Pond. Our mismatched hands gripped together in the...
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The Fallacy of Philanthropy

There are thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root. ~Henry David Thoreau     I just spent a long day deconstructing our backyard. EJ sold his alpacas, and so our fenced in pasture and barn can now return to its suburban origins as a shed...
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The Silver Apples of the Moon.

Stories are a communal currency of humanity. ― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights The most powerful and enduring connection we share as a human race is our desire and need to share stories. We engage in the art of storytelling more than most of us ever realize; whether we...
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Another Day…

I've been somewhat lax about posting in here of late, but I have been giving myself a bit of a break from writing. In fact, I spent the last month or so just living--and that has been just fine with me. I set a simple goal for myself this summer to get in shape. PJ...
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A New Beginning

 I guess if there is any constant in my life, it is new beginnings.  This blog--and this website--is another new beginning starting here late on a cold night on my back porch. I've been keeping a blog (in fact several blogs) since the first blogs made their way on to...
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The Teacher’s Couch

It’s not just a couch; it’s a sofa, too ~Fitz           I remember my first year teaching at Fenn—and it was really my first stint as a true worker with responsibilities outside of what I already had in my wheelhouse—and on this day, some twenty something years ago, I...
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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:

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