“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


"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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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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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 Blathering of Teachers

To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities  as you do at conclusions. ~Benjamin Franklin             Maybe we are born more to ignore than to listen. I understand too well how easy it is to ignore the blatherings of teachers. I was a master of it once myself, so why...
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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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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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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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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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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 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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Redefining Literacy

 My life is the poem I could have writ, But I could not both live and utter it ~Henry David Thoreau    The common man goes to an orchard to taste the fruit. The rich man man learns how to plant his own orchard. The poet, however,  grows an even better fruit and gives...
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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 Value of a Classic

“Classic' - a book which people praise and don't read.” ~Mark Twain A note to my 8th grade class:      All of you are supposedly reading a classic book, but what Twain says is true: few of us go thirsty to the well and willingly read the greatest works of literature...
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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.

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

Someday, someone might fire you for not doing what you should have done.    There are some days when a teacher might wonder whether it is worth giving the extra effort if the students are not giving the extra effort. I am lucky--and cursed--that I get to live and...
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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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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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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.

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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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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 be here so...
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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Quit Your Whining

Anything worth succeeding in is worth failing in~Ben Franklin     "Quit your whining and complaining" is probably a clause that can easily be translated into every language in every culture on earth, for, from what I know and have seen in the world, bitching about...
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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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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 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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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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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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Contact John Fitzsimmons...and thanks!

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