“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

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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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…

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Chores

The day sometimes slip away from me, a huge pine half-bucked in the backyard, the kids old tree fort cut into slabs, a ton of coal waiting to be moved in a train of buckets to the bin. Sipping cold water on the back deck, sharpening the dulled teeth of a worn...
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Thanksgiving

I am surprised sometimesby the suddenness of November:beauty abruptly shedto a common nakedness--grasses deadenedby hoarfrost,persistent memoriesof people I’ve lost.It is left to those of us dressed in the hard barky skin of experienceto insist on a decorumthat rises...
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Welcome

I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land... ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden I’ve...
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The Nagging Thing

Not many more nights like this, warm enough to sit outside on the back porch. The kids and Denise long asleep. Usually, during the school year, this is my "time" to catch up on schoolwork--grading, posting the assignments for the week and playing the general catchup...
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The Philanthropy of Maynard

 I woke up today with chores on my mind. My buddy Josh LoPresti lent me his woodsplitter, and I had dreams of a mindless day splitting wood and heaving it into a pile for my kids to stack along the fence. But the dryer was broken, and it needed to be fixed. Margret's...
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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–

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A New Hearth

It has been a long time since I wrote a simple old "this is what I am going to do today" post. So this is what I am going to do today: [and trust me, it will have nothing--absolutely nothing--to do with school work:)] Before the true winter settles in, I am going to...
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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.”

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Goathouse

Goat house In reaching for the scythe I’m reminded of the whetstone and the few quick strokes by which it was tested-- the hardness of hot August; the burning of ticks off dog backs. It’s winter now in this garage made barn, and the animals seem only curious that I’d...
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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.

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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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On Writing with Rubrics

The only way out is through... Damn! Another long post... For better and worse--and through thick and thin--I keep piling on rubric after rubric to help guide the content, flow, and direction of my students' writing pieces.  The greater irony is that I never set out...
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A Late Night Metacognition

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after ~Henry David Thoreau           When you need something done, find a busy person to help you get it done. My mother loved repeating that to me all the way to her dying day,...
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Weeds

  Somewhere locked in this choke of weeds spread like a mangy carpet is the hardened vine of Pipo’s Concord Grape he planted in an eager spring three years ago. Gasping for air and sun and water perhaps it has found some way to hide from my flailing hoe and the...
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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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The Inn

        I realized that in all my years of writing and journal keeping, I seldom, if ever, write about "The Inn," which is and has been, the biggest and most enduring constant in my life for the past thirty plus years. Every Thursday night I load up my car, truck, bus...
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The Inn

Every Thursday, for some thirty years, I have been spending this same time each week wrapping up the loose ends of the day before heading down to the inn to play to whomever and whatever shows up. Tonight looks like a fun night: Maroghini will be with me for his last...
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Ready. Set. Go.

Who forgets to rinse his hair? Me, I guess, for that was the start of my day. I smelled something like coconut oil on my way to school, and then I realized, dang, my hair is still pretty wet. Wet with hair conditioner. And then I get sot school all coconutty smelling...
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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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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.

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A Redemptive Moment

I see the clock ticking towards 7:00. The kids are deep in their weekday world of homework, juggling soccer balls around the house, watching TV, but I am in my “got to rally” and get to the inn mode that happens very Thursday. Tonight I am tired. I’ll admit it, but...
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Presenting…

"Anything worth succeeding in, is worth failing in."~by Edison?      A contractor friend showed up at my house a few weeks ago just after I finished making the hearth and installing my new wood/coal stove. He complimented me on how "awesome" it looked. I then lamented...
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What Christmas Is

  I am not sure what Christmas really is anymore. I am almost afraid to think of what Christians are going through in the lands of the original Christian faith. By dint of place and time, I grew up in the Catholic faith, and try as I might, I can’t ever escape the...
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The Mystery in the Cradle

This picture is from Christmas eleven years ago when Tommy was only two weeks old, and now all of them—and Gio and Pipo--are playing charades or some such game in the dining room, shouting and laughing at each other's miscues and fortifying another enduring memory...
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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 Enigma

Black Pond is not as deepas it is dark, dammedsome century agobetween ledges of granite and an outcropping of leaning fir, huckleberry, and white pine. For years I have paddled and trolled;swam, fished, sailed and sometimessimply tread water in the night trying to...
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The Queer Folk

True to my words of earlier this week, I finished this song last night, and at the time, I liked it--but in the clear light of day, too much of it seems forced, especially the rhymes. But that is part of the process. I think I am almost there. Let me get my saw and...
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Paris: 11/13/15

It is a sad day for humanity. Another sad day on top of many others happening every day--many in places we hear about only obliquley and sometimes not at all. Paris is that much closer to home for most of us here and in Europe, but freedom and tolerance has to...
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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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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?”

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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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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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Raccoon Welcome

Welcome
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The Mystery Within

EJ wanted a banana tree for Christmas so that early morning brought a plastic bag, a few meager roots and no directions. I bought some potting soil and a square cedar box EJ placed deliberately by a westward window. He gently splayed the roots, pressed the soil, and...
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Kampuchea

I stutter for normality across the river from black men fishing for kibbers and horned pout. Barefoot children rounded bellies curled navels stalk the turtle sunning on a log. lonely in the field grass lonely on the curbstones I stutter for normality. Not a mother...
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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?

Read More

A Priori

How do I know what I know? The sharp angles of this simple cottage perfected  in every board sawn, shingle split and beam hewn into place goes together placed, splined, slid together, bound more by intuition than...
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The Shapes of Stories

While I have always been a storyteller of sorts, I am not much of a writer of stories--but I have always been intrigued by the relative simplicity at the core design level of most books and movies. A lot of it is tied to my love for Joseph Campbell's work on the...
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