“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

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...

The American Folk Experience

The American Folk Experience collects, curates and shares the most enduring songs of our musical heritage—songs that John Fitzsimmons has 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 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




& Recordings

     I have often wished that I could point to some longstanding musical lineage in my life, so that I could view myself as a “traditional source” for traditional music; instead, I am just a guy who loves traditional folk music—and I am still not quite sure why. Sometimes I laugh with my crowds (and often lack of crowds) that folk music is the quickest way for a non-musician to pretend he or she is a musician—but in my heart and soul I know there is something much deeper and more complex going on that has steeped itself into a strong tea infused with my own being.

Folk music has connected me—and still connects me—with people, times, communities and cultures far off the beaten path of the everyday roads I travel each day. By learning and performing these old folksongs, I feel like I am doing my part to etch upon the yardstick of time a living and dynamic memory of our most primal and guttural—and often the most common— responses to life.  But I know there is more…

Away from the energy and allure of the stage, I still hum, sing  and chant these old folksongs and ballads as meditations, prayers and incantations to the day or night—lonely, votive offerings to mysteries deeper than myself, or, perhaps, too deep within myself to be measured, weighed and sold in words.  My “faith” in folk music is not unlike my faith in God—I don’t need to be convinced of anything: God brings me spring; folk music brings me ballads, and that is all the proof I need.

I am indebted to the many friends who share my love of traditional songs and to the many scholars whose works are too many to include here. I am also incredibly grateful to the collector’s curators and collators of Wikipedia, Mudcat.org, MainlyNorfolk.info, and TheContemplator.com for their wise, thorough and informative contributions to the study of folk music. 

I share this scholarly research on my site with humility, thanks, and gratitude. Please cite sources accordingly with your own research. If you have any research or sites you would like to share on this site, please contact me.


John Fitzsimmons

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

Lenny Megliola

WEEI Radio

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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There is something about coming hometo this empty house, yesterday'sheavy downpours scouringclean the alreadyweathered deckwhere I sitwishing...
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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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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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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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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 English Soldier

There is a soldier dressed in ancient English wool guarding the entrance to the inn. He is lucky for this cool night awaiting the pomp of the out of town wedding party. He is paid to be unmoved by the bride's stunning beauty or her train of lesser escorts. He will not...
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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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Wrenching Day

It has certainly been a long time since wisdom ruled the day. I did get up and run in the rain, and now I am preparing to do some “wrenching” on my motorcycle. I am trying to temper my eagerness to ride with my desire to get everything “right” on the bike--without...
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Why Trump Is Not Flipping Me Out

I wonder why Trump is not flipping me out? I wonder if there is some bigoted, ignorant and right-wing element that lurks inside this folk-singing, poem writing, neo-socialist shell of mine. Maybe it is not that hard for me to make the empathetic reach to feel at least...
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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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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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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.

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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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The start of the school year, and I have literally spent every free moment working on what is ostensibly pretty cool stuff, methinks...but it is work in every sense of the word, so I do miss those long summer mornings when  could literally write to my heart and heads...
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The Late and Lazy Teacher

I guess this is a good thing. I showed up five minutes late for class, and my classroom was empty. I walked the hallways of the school and could not find any of them. I sheepishly asked the assistant headmaster if he "happened to see a class of wandering boys?"No, he...
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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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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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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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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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The Night Music

The house is quiet earlier than usual. I can hear Margaret playing her guitar and singing in her bedroom—door closed as she would have it, but still beautiful to hear. It reminds me of Kaleigh when she was younger singing her heart out, as if the world didn't really...
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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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The Litter in Concord

I have been following a Facebook thread about the movement in my beloved hometown of Concord to ban plastic water bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam cups. I am trying to discern whether or not my initial responses are pure and true and not simply reactionary and...
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Marriage & Magnanimity

If we want to have the freedom to marry whom we want to marry, why is it so important that the state (government) recognise that marriage? Is it simply the expediency of dispensing the entitlements of a marriage certificate: tax benefits, employment benefits, or the...
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Finally, the tall green pines standing sentinel around this cold and black New Hampshire pond are framed in a sky of blue. After a month of steady rains, foggy nights, and misty days, I am reborn into a newly created world—a world that finally answered my prayers: no...
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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.

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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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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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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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In the unfolding 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 I hear Emma rustling for soccer cleats and...
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Nurture Passion

How about we all take the bull by the horns and make this blog thing work! Your job this week is to do something with your blog that is powered by the passion that is in you. Passion is the one thing you have some control over. There are plenty of smarter, more...
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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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I loved the rain last night. Last week, in a bow to reality, I reclaimed my gardens and made them into yard. Four of my kids got poison ivy in the process and I (and more "they") got an extra ten feet of width to add to the soccer field--for really that is about 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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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...
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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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Know Thyself…

Writing a Metacognition Know Thyself… Explore, Assess, Reflect & Rethink If we don’t learn from what we do, we learn little of real value. If we don’t make the time to explore, reflect and rethink our ways of doing things we will never grow, evolve and reach our...
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Thinking of My Sister

When Cool Was Really Cool  Life is not counted by the amount of breaths we take,  but of the moments that leave us breathless. ~Unknown             We were coming home from church one morning and Jimmy Glennon pulled up beside us as we approached the Sudbury road...
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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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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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Contact John Fitzsimmons...and thanks!

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