Patrick Fitzsimmons, Live 2005: The Birthday Shows | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Patrick Fitzsimmons, Live 2005: The Birthday Shows 

(Itz Fitz Music, CD)

Vermont-based singer-songwriter Patrick Fitzsimmons is a familiar presence in the Green Mountain acoustic scene. A former member of major-label folk-rockers From Good Homes, Fitzsimmons has enjoyed a fair measure of success as a solo performer. His latest release, Live 2005: The Birthday Sessions, finds him on his former New Jersey stomping grounds backed by a full band.

Fitzsimmons trades in humble acoustic pop that's agreeable, if safe. With his honeyed voice and relaxed strumming, Fitzsimmons sounds custom-made for adult-contemporary radio.

Following a brief round of applause, the disc kicks off with "Come to Me," a breathy ballad saddled with romantic platitudes. Like an overenthusiastic paramour, the tune gets a bit cloying. I did enjoy Leena Gilbert's lovely violin work, however.

"Vermont Skies" follows a similar trajectory, with sensitive lyrics and tactful accompaniment. Percussionist Ned Stroh keeps things on a simmer, while upright bassist Rob Meehan provides surefooted low end. The instrumentation is pleasant, but the arrangement is fairly predictable.

Fitzsimmons is at his most convincing on minor-key numbers such as "Forgiving You." "You turn away from me now in disgrace / "To fight the war between your love and hate," he sings with just a hint of acerbity. Unfortunately, the song's mawkish chorus saps it of any real edge. "It's all right, it's OK / tomorrow brings another day for you and me," he continues. Things would likely be more interesting if Fitzsimmons was less sympathetic.

"Autumn" features chiming acoustic guitar and a brisk pop vocal. "Little hand held my thumb so tight / How could I know time would fly so fast with you," Fitzsimmons sings. It's all very soothing, but I couldn't stop thinking about diaper ads.

I was pleased to hear a cover of "That's the Way," from Led Zeppelin III. It's always been an overlooked song in the Zep canon, and Fitzsimmons turns in a respectable version.

"His Father's Son" is a look at familial bonds, underscored by luxurious strings and reflective piano. Subsequent track "Dance" has a lot more bounce. Backed by vigorous hand drumming, Fitzsimmons brays about beating his boogie-phobia.

The piano-led "Old Blue Heart" is about taking the time to notice life's beauty. At least I think it is. After so many wistful ballads, it's hard to stay focused.

Fitzsimmons is well cast in the role of grown-up crooner, as Live 2005 ably proves. In his case, however, a little immaturity might go a long way.

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About The Author

Casey Rea

Casey Rea

Casey Rea was the Seven Days music editor from 2004 until 2007. He won the 2005 John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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