Gold in the Shadow by William Fitzsimmons (Nettwerk Records, 2011. 37 minutes)

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to blind parents, William Fitzsimmons was raised with music functioning as a communicative necessity. Fitzsimmons began his music career after graduating from Geneva College with a master’s degree in counseling and working as a mental health therapist. While working as a therapist, Fitzsimmons began writing songs that functioned both as a preparative exercise for his profession and as way in which to encounter his personal demons. William’s first two records, Until We Are Ghosts and Goodnight, were self-produced and recorded at home. After some initial success with these records, Fitzsimmons wrote The Sparrow and the Crow as a personal apology to his wife of ten years after a bitter divorce. His new record, Gold in the Shadow, focuses on life after his marriage and experiences of personal renewal.

The Joy of Creativity

One of the pleasures of creativity is trying something new. Joy materializes when an action commences a new journey. In the new pursuit, one finds learning opportunities. Whether an innovative brush stroke, genre of music, or word combination, creativity offers a breath of fresh air.
Sadly, when creativity becomes a profession, the joys of design are substituted with the toil of a deadline. Moreover, when a professional finds creative success, he or she finds it difficult to enact creative changes when the work becomes a brand.

Gold in the Shadow, the new full-length record from William Fitzsimmons exhibits the flawed creativity of music as a brand. Finding notoriety in lullaby folk songs and the occasional electronic beat, William Fitzsimmons has settled into a songwriting mold.

The Virtue of Throwing a Changeup

I have always maintained that it is crucial for an artist to craft songs that fit the sonic texture of a single album. A fan must be able to associate the sound of a song with the record from which it originates.
Without this tenet, an artist’s discography becomes a muddled mess. Without exception, every song on Gold in the Shadow could appear on Fitzsimmons’ previous records.
However, this indictment is not to say that this latest release is a poor record. In fact, I find it to be a consistent and enjoyable album.  Of course, if Fitzsimmons took more chances, the record might fail miserably or launch his career into the stratosphere. Instead, the album feels safe.

Hopeful But Still Depressing

Lyrically, Fitzsimmons attempts to add a glimmer of hope into his music after years of songs referencing his life in turmoil.
In the opening track, “The Tide Pulls From the Moon,” Fitzsimmons sings,

“I want to be changed from / The shadow and the tomb / Like water rushing over us / The tide pulls from the moon”

Although most songs sound similar to previous works, Gold in the Shadow carries a few standout tracks. More specifically, “The Winter from Her Leaving,” “Fade and then Return,” and “Psychasthenia” illustrate Fitzsimmons in fine form.
First, “The Winter from Her Leaving” shows off a tendency in this record to add an instrumental counter melody to William’s main hook. In this song specifically, the guitar hook that begins the songs keeps an energy flowing through the entire song.
“Fade and then Return” takes a page out of The Postal Service as a delayed guitar ambiently strolls throughout the song while Fitzsimmons notes,

“Like baby’s breath / I’m holding on to air / My lungs a thief / Should I know you / A stranger though you seem / You feel like home”

Start with The Sparrow and the Crow

Despite the well-crafted tunes, Gold in the Shadow suffers from formulaic songwriting and production. Hopefully, William Fitzsimmons will soon seek to try new things creatively. While the record is by no means awful, it is not the place to start the William Fitzsimmons discography. If you are interested in lullaby folk music, I recommend starting with Fitzsimmons’ record, The Sparrow and the Crow.



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