Album Review: William Fitzsimmons – Pittsburgh

Look, another new release that made its way to my blog! May 2015 (and by extension late April 2015) has been something else, releasing new material from some great bands. Just today, I found out of another album released to add to my list of must-listens. Not knowing that William Fitzsimmons was doing something else besides touring this past year, his newest album nearly snuck past me unnoticed. I need an assistant to catch up on these releases!

William Fitzsimmons, better known as Fitzy around my house, is another addition to my iTunes library thanks to my amazing wife. Residing from Pittsburgh, Fitzsimmons is a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter that has captured my heart and ripped it in two. My wife has been listening to him for years, but it wasn’t until years after his great album “The Sparrow and the Crow” that I first heard him. I was immediately hooked; his simple and delicate strumming and fingerpicking on guitars, banjos, ukuleles, and mandolins were enough for me to consider him my favorite import from my wife’s taste in music. Another artist who’s much softer than my normal progressive musical choices, Fitzsimmons is an amazing musician and human being, ranging between folk and indie rock. His painful passion behind his five albums are addicting, and his newest album “Pittsburgh” released on Tuesday will surely settle nicely on your ears.

Photo by Unimag
Photo by Unimag

When I say album, I mean a mini-album. More than an EP, and less than an LP, “Pittsburgh” still contains all the pain and reflection a listener needs in its 26 minutes. Growing up with blind parents, their divorce during his childhood, working as a mental health therapist, and his own divorce are all subject matter in his discography. Indeed it’s super heavy material that weighs down on the listener, but his melody and rhythm are so soothing and relieving. Fitzsimmons easily makes his listeners feel better with the hardships they are going through, utilizing his therapeutic techniques in a new way. They have even helped my wife and me through hard times, so I can vouch for his success.

His album “Pittsburgh” utilizes an interesting mix of techniques that can be found throughout his career. The use of drum machines in the songs “Better” and “Matter” are a throwback to his more electronic first album “Until When We Are Ghosts,” where he mixed, engineered, and produced everything. Besides these songs is the title track, which utilizes an acoustic guitar and easily reminds me of his album “The Sparrow and the Crow.” His calming, slightly falsetto voice is very chilling, yet relaxing. His voice waves and tremolos like a breeze across the ocean, and makes me feel like he is singing in front of me. What comes with his albums is that personal experience and time to reflect on everything in your life. “Pittsburgh” is meant to be listened to while lying awake in bed, dreaming of the past and what’s in store.

Much of his music to me sounds very similar compositionally. His songs follow a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus pattern. Almost every song utilizes a piano or acoustic guitar to some degree. There are even many songs featuring backing female vocals. Although he is a very gifted yet predictable musician, that is not what makes me love this guy. Even with his tremendous talent that is easily seen during his live shows (I’ve seen him twice), what makes me return for more are his lyrics. Like I stated earlier, Fitzsimmons’ life is an open book, and is literally the subject matter for all his songs. In a way, the listener is hearing a concept album, a story and theme. But this time it’s real.

It’s difficult to pick just a couple songs to share with you all. For an album only containing seven songs, all of them are perfect and portray the quintessential Fitzsimmons. There are two, though, that strike me in such a hard way. I am very easily moved by music, whether happy, sad, angry, or mad. These songs, though, moved me so much I nearly cried when I first listened to it. I never cry. I was literally enjoying a stroll during my lunch break downtown the first play through this album, and I had to hold back tears and puff up to make myself look more hard and masculine. That’s how much these songs impacted me. The first song is “I Had to Carry Her (Virginia’s Song),” being a funeral song for what I’m assuming is his grandmother. Having a grandmother with that same name, I immediately thought of her, which didn’t help the situation. The lyrics continue to show a picture of Fitzsimmons speaking to someone beyond the grave. The entire song is short and perfect, so I will share the entire song lyrics:

“I saw her lying there on the table / Buried in flowers, a cross that I made for her / Kneeling beside you next to my mother, weeping like willows / I had to carry her…

I’m sorry it took me two years to come home / I’ve been so busy, you should see how the kids have grown / I’ll tell the children how much you loved them / They’ll never know you / I had to carry her” (source)

William Fitzsimmons
Photo by Htbackdrops

Besides this song, the beautifully depressing “Matter” shows Fitzsimmons’ vulnerability in what I imagine is a love song to his now-divorced wife. Again, the lyrics are so great and short that I’ll share the whole song:

“As we drive down North of 85, passing state liens like a ghost / As if you might still be alive, holding onto what I can even / Though it’s just a lie, that doesn’t matter anymore…

You were a lovely child, prettier than I knew / You lost your husband in the war, plus all that I have put you through / There is a love I have I never gave to you / That doesn’t matter anymore” (source)

Much of the album uses the theme of ghosts, being a theme present in most of his albums. Whether literal ghosts or figurative, each of us experience this. We may have lost a loved one, or have moved on from one on this Earth, but each of us go through this type of pain together. Leave it to Fitzsimmons to mend a broken heart. His therapy works, “Pittsburgh” being his latest session.

A tremendous effort, please support the folksy William Fitzsimmons and his latest album “Pittsburgh.” This album is made for fans of acts like Iron & Wine, City and Colour, Joshua Radin, Denison Witmer, and other singer/songwriters. It is also made for those that are just looking for a good cry. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with anything Fitzy has written. He’ll console you and tell you everything’s ok. You can support him by purchasing his new album on iTunes, or by visiting and following his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

And to William: Thank you for the support you’ve given to my wife, the support you’ve given to myself, and to our family. If only you could understand the impact you have had on us. Without you, our lives would have been truly different.

williamfitzsimmonspittsburgh-front-coverPurchase “Pittsburgh” by William Fitzsimmons by clicking the album cover above!

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