“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


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 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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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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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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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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China Journal: Part Three

III My teachers could have ridden with Jesse James For all the time they stole from me... ~Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America      Today it was a temple built into the mountainside west of West Lake. Mr. Toe drove us out there. In most ways I just follow Rob...
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These trees have driven so many friends batty, wedged in unstable crotches, embracing hollow, heart-rotted limbs, reaching tentatively, maddened with indecision. From a distance your gestures are very lobsterlike— waving a last embattled claw, as if dueling some...
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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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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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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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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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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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Ring of Fire: The Power of Simplicity

In fifth grade my mother finally let me go to the Concord Music store and buy a "45" single.  I bought Johnny Cash’s version of “Ring of Fire” written by his future wife June Carter and Merle Kilgore, a noted country songwriter of his day. There was no doubt in my...
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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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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 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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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 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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Raccoon Welcome

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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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When the same thing happens again

I wonder if God is testing me, giving Me some affable warning Or, perhaps, a more Stern rebuke, replaying A foolish mistake, Rehashing and reminding me Of a harsher possibility. It is only a small 10 mm wrench tightening A loose bolt on the throttle body, slipping...
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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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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 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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Moby Dick: Chapters 42-51

A literary reflection to my students... The lowering for whales, the appearance of Fedallah's crew, the vivid descriptions of the first chase in a sudden and unrelenting gale, the fatalistic joy of resigning oneself to fate, the awesome poetic intensity of Melville's...
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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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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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Very jealous today of all the folks I see spending time with their respective moms--and sad for those who can't and for those whose wives were taken from their families too early in life... This is my remmebrance of my "mum" who died several years ago.       I ran...
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Just closed the lid, so to speak, on what seems to be weeks of school-related paperwork. I am excited to go to my classes tomorrow with only those classes on my mind--not the letters home to parents, the secondary school recs, the grades and comments to homeroom...
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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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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 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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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 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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Contact John Fitzsimmons...and thanks!

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