by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com
“You were just a boy when she moved on, though I’m told that you were better off,” William Fitzsimmons whisper-sings in “People Change Their Minds” as he ponders the story before him. “Still I wonder if you wonder, too, where did she go.” The tenderness of his handling reflects the depth of his contemplation.
The song comes from Fitzsimmons’ Charleroi album, which is a complementary project to Pittsburgh. He clarifies, “The Pittsburgh album was about the grandmother I knew. Charleroi is about the one I never did.” This track focuses on his father’s abandonment as a baby — and the wounds such a situation leaves that require a lifetime to heal, if they ever do. As evidenced by Fitzsimmons’ own digging into the story, some of that questioning gets handed down through the generations, as well.
“My father was returned to the hospital as an infant, ill with whooping cough,” he says. “He was left there for several months as an orphan. Finally, he was adopted by a kind doctor who became his father. Never knowing his birth family, it was assumed that mystery would always remain. In 2015, after over 60 years of wondering and waiting, the family was finally found. Having been mistakenly told that my father died in infancy, he was never sought out by the remainder of his biological family. Sadly, his mother passed away several years before having a chance to ever see her son again. Her name was Thelma and she was my grandmother. She was from Charleroi, Pennsylvania. These songs are about her.”
Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2 is out on April 1 via Nettwerk, and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.