William Fitzsimmons is the premier introspective singer songwriter. His nearly-whispered vocals and mesmerizing finger picking come together for a sound that is relaxing, romantic, and inspiring. It’s the backdrop for a date, relaxing study music, and an all around great listening experience. His discography to this point has been good and the latest, Lions, continues to inspire listeners with soft, subtle vocals and full band production to support his sound.
The opener “Well Enough” is quintessential acoustic singer-songwriter fare, complete with the almost instantaneous relaxing ethos to the song. “But you will never know…” a healthy dose of mystery and subtle connection drives all things Fitzsimmons. “Had to let you go…” cues us that this is ultimately a break up song. Oh, but don’t worry ladies, he hopes he made you well. It’s the sort of “it’s not me it’s you” break up line that no one ever wants to hear, but he does it with the deepest, most heartfelt subtlety possible.
“Josie’s Song” has a bit more of a country strum feel to it, yet preserves Fitzsimmons’ characteristic vocal delivery. Ultimately the song is about dedication and devotion to love. “I will be here to measure out my love…” The song has an almost cathartic repetitive strum to it. I wouldn’t recommend this song, or really any of this album, for late night driving. Naptime, however, and this could be just the album for you.
The third track “Brandon” has a simple fingerpicking riff that puts listeners in mind of a magical far away land. The opening line, “I could love you… I would sow the seeds again if you take down your justified defense.” Without the full back story to this track, it seems to have something to do with a relationship that didn’t quite work out, but the guy wants to get back. It seems to be a running theme in this album that the tracks have to do with personal insecurities amidst possible romance.
“Fortune” is a bit more upbeat, but still fits in the album’s overall sound. “Blood Chest” has a wonderful chromatic fingerpicking pattern throughout the track. Again, Fitzsimmons’ lyrics seem deeply personal. The sound is reminiscent of worship music or the like. “With broken mind and tongue… the creature I’ve become… you are the blood in my chest.” It’s obscure and definitely not an arena rocker, but it does the soft, introspective track great justice. “Come lover… carry on.”
The opening guitar riff on “Hold On” might be my favorite on the album. The backing instruments on this track, like many of the others, are so subtle that they almost feel non-existant, but they really serve to support the overall sound. It has a light, adventurous tone to it. Listeners feel like they’re walking through an open field, under the stars. It’s got that kind of bright, light vibrancy to it.
“Centralia,” undoubtedly named after the Washington town, begins with a lofi guitar background that grows into the more standard Fitzsimmons acoustic sound. While the intro makes the track stand out from the rest of the album, it does not veer far from his standard style. “Let me fall through the ground where you fell back to you… we burn like Centralia, lost in the ash fallout hoping to find a home.” It has much more of a wanderer’s lament. It’s an intriguing song in an album seemingly focused on love. The crescendoing background instrumentation makes it a truly unique track on the album.
“Sister” fits into the standard paradigm of the rest of the album, except that instead of being a romantic relationship, it appears to be about a sibling. In particular it does a good job of creating a feeling of disconnection between the protagonists. It’s the disconnection, as its investigated by the singer, that is imminently relatable for the listener. Anyone who has that feeling of wanting to be closer to a loved one, this song will really resonate. “Traces of a girl that I once knew…” has a tragic element that the two, in their growing up, have drifted apart. It’s sad, but probably something many people will be able to understand.
The title track “Lions” has a similar fingerpicking style as much of the album. The ambient sound on the track, along with the unique percussion pattern, make it feel a bit different. Sounding more like a mid-90s alternative track than early 21st century folk music, it has a sound that evokes several images, but few of lions. It was certainly an interesting choice for the title track.
Overall, the album is going to be perfect for folks who were already fans of William Fitzsimmons. His sound has not changed much in the last few years. He’s not for everyone, but people who enjoy his unique ability to go “deep” while feeling light and airy at the same time. Fans of similar introspective singer-songwriters might also enjoy this album. It is good for a relaxing, thoughtful listen.