“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

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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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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Creating a Digital Workflow in the Classroom

One Teacher’s Solution To Everything  Years of teaching woodshop at my school has reinforced in me the utility of developing a workflow that works best for the project at hand using the tools and equipment already in the shop. The same can be said of my other life as...
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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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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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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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Reflecting on Literature

I am constantly asking my students (and myself) to reflect on the literature they, and I, read. As I have grown older—and not necessarily wiser—I find myself only reading literature that I am sure will prod me out of my intellectual and emotional torpor, like a lizard...
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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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Doing What Needs To Be Done

The rain falls;The grass grows:Nothing is done.Nothing is left undone~Buddha        Sometimes you just do what you got to do, and that never changes from the first time you take out the trash as a kid until the time in life where you are taking care of little chores...
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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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Once Burned. Twice Shy.

Just because no one understands you,  it doesn’t mean you are an artist ~Bumper Sticker        I sometimes wonder why when you give a group of teenagers a video camera, the first impulse is to shoot something stupid. It’s as if there is some jackass switch...
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A New Paradigm

     Sometimes, like right now, I long for a pile of papers on my lap that I could speed through, grade with a series of checks and circles, a few scribbled lines of praise or condemnation, and drop into a shoebox on my desk and say, "Here are your essays!" But I...
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"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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The Most Unoriginal Teacher

Yes, that's me. I am a fraudster, thief, and plagiarizer of the worst magnitude. I copy the very styles of classic poets; I steal from Noble Laureate novelists, and I copy words from every and any source I can. And even worse, I steal from myself. If you even dare to...
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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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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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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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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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I am surprised sometimes by the suddenness of November: beauty abruptly shed to a common nakedness— grasses deadened by hoarfrost, persistent memories of people I’ve lost. It is left to those of us dressed in the hard barky skin of experience to insist on a decorum...
Read More


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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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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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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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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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 Right Side of the Inevitable

  Like birds of a feather, we gather together, 'Cuz they're feeling exactly like you... ~John Prine   I am not afraid of being a white minority. I had lunch today with a Jamaican drummer, a Ugandan farmer, and a Senagalese potter. I don’t say this out of...
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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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Make Something out of Something

It's hard to make chicken salad out of chicken manure      Dirty hands are a good sign, so hopefully, you got some mental mud on your hands and created some content to work with today.  To a starving man, any food is good food--unless it...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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A Perfect Mirror

Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself~BuddhaLast night you were so lucky. You didn't have to worry about your grumpy, tired teacher going through hours of journals ands doling out poor grades for what I am sure qualifies for good efforts...
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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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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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Wisdom starts in non-action… The doing and non-doing are the equal balance. Without the luxury of contemplation there would not be a prioritizing of need versus want. Wisdom balances physical reality… Wisdom does not shuffle tasks out of view but finds a way to...
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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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Dallas: 7/7/2016

I woke up this morning almost too fearful to read the news. I stayed up late into the night just watching for the breaking stories and updates. Now, I am simplyconfused about how to act. I feel incredibly small and pointless, unsure of where I stand and how to move...
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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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