There might be no better way to end 2019, this dog-eared novella of a year, and start the wondrous new Twenties than with ruminations on regret, redemption and hope. So, let us all join Pittsburgh-area singer-songwriter Adam Fitz when he starts 2020 bright and early Jan. 1 by self-releasing a two-song EP online that’s ripe with fireplace-warmed Americana and soulful folk stylings.
I first heard Fitz, brave and solo, opening for legendary guitar-slinger Richard Buckner at Pittsburgh’s intimate Club Cafe in 2018. Even when having the dubious distinction of setting the stage, somewhat literally, for an alt-country icon – what a night that was — Fitz shined, really belting out his raspy voiced refrains over a gently strummed acoustic guitar, and, in a highlight, unfurling an admirable, animated cover of Tom Waits’ “Hold On.” His energy and sense of presence was infectious and really fanned the small crowd’s flames for Buckner’s mastery. I can hear that version of the Greensburg, Pa. folk musician on his latest release, a performer whose passion shines through best when the scenery is largely unadorned and the spotlight is turned inward on the pain behind the seemingly simple syllables.
Can’t Pardon Me‘s title song is an interesting, if straight-forward, look at self-doubt and regret, with the titular “man who can’t pardon me” likely a stand-in for Fitz himself. But that aside, there are surprising nuances to the song, whose verses are laid out before listeners carefully, even preciously, with carefully recorded, finger-picked acoustics. The second song, “Long Time Losing You,” really sings, though – with Fitz confronting a loved one who’s in the process of falling victim to substance abuse. A well-placed backing electric guitar, sometimes offering a wash or two of reverb, offers interesting counter-narratives to Fitz’s no-frills acoustic balladeering, and, on the song, he again belts out the refrains, lending a kind of soulful edge to the proceedings. Think Reno’s Spencer Kilpatrick, he of MELK fame and the understated gem “You Feel Like Nevada to Me,” playing the spare folk of The Lesser Birds of Paradise, in whose orbit Fitz, incidentally, has flown.
There are no radical departures, no bizarre experimentation, on Fitz’ new two-songer, which, rumor has it, will get a super-limited run on lathe-cut vinyl. His journey is a familiar one – a man, a musician, a husband and father, a teacher, reflecting on the weight of his own insecurities or how other insecurities cripple those around him. But he knows the route and calls out the signposts well. Yeah, it’s well-worn terrain, but Fitz makes it worth the trip. Recommended.