Label: Nettwerk Release date: 21/03/11 Link: Myspace Buys: Amazon The revitalisation of folk music has taken twists and turns over the last few years, shifting from the upbeat, jolly realms of Noah & the Whale towards a gentler approach towards romanticism and storytelling in the likes of Mumford & Sons and PJ Harvey's latest output. William Fitzsimmons is an Illinois based singer-songwriter who was one of those lucky buggers given the opportunity to grow up in a musical household, taking time to learn piano, guitar, banjo, ukulele and mandolin, as well as introducing electronic additions into his lamenting brand of modern indie folk. A masters degree in counselling, time spent working with the mentally ill and home troubles combined to forge the musical mind of Fitzsimmons; a conscience set towards carefully layered emotional narratives, entwined around, according to the man himself, the world of mental illness and healing. It may be far too easy to pick up a few dozen artists whose sound recall the subtle gentility on display here, or the vocal inflections and composure in the tone of our bearded singer songwriter. On his latest album, Gold In The Shadow there are flashes of Elliot Smith, spots of Iron & Wine and dollops of Mark Oliver Everett. After peering past all of this, it's a lot more interesting to delve into the heart and honesty of the music and lyrical exploration, as Fitzsimmons croons about delicate matters with a delicate demeanour, accumulating deliberately demure affections that caress rather than crash. 'The Winter From Her Leaving' trots into life via a jolly percussive twang that allows the story of a despairing departure to creep into your conscience. The vocals here possess a quality that allows maximum affectation with a minimum of fuss, quietly treading the balance between a secretive, secluded whisper and a sorrowful silent scream, rising and falling in the required places. However, as with many regretful whines, a handful of tracks become stuck in that basking bog of bawling, where the constant crying provokes an exasperated tut rather than an aching sigh. 'Tied To Me' and 'Fade and Then Return' fudge themselves along in such a way, screaming out in depressing desolation, using a sparse mixture of simple electro splodges and disaffected harmonies that ends up sounding more distant than dejected. It's these moments of lag that get a record stuck in the middle of the marker, leaving you relatively confused as to which way to lean; compassionately conjoined, nodding along sagely at every turn, or embarrassingly bemused at the shallow effort at apathy. A few stronger songs push thing's towards a positive tilt, thankfully, as 'Beautiful Girl' sets out as a lovers lament that softly sets out the terms of an appreciation for the female form and 'Let You Break', a duet with Leigh Nash, takes solace in the beautifully balanced vocals between the two, soaring and sweeping with equal fragility. A strong ending allows the album to leave a sweet taste in the ears, as 'What Hold' clings onto a considerately winsome acoustic riff to complement some of the sweetest vocal tones over the course of ten tracks, with William murmuring "and lay your head besides a bed of burden...you will see sunrise again". This is a record about healing and the frailty of the human spirit. And, just like those whose health falters, for seemingly meaningless and unforeseeable reasons, the twinges and aches of this record weigh everything down with a heavy pain. Luckily, those wholesome, happy, healthy fragments of life, and of this record, are by far the most important, and are what we should cherish, basking in the elation rather than wallowing in the anguish. Photobucket