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Portmanteau - a queer folksong EP

by Nic Gareiss

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    Limited edition 8" x 9" cyanotype Portmanteau print by Warner Ball. Check out his work at www.warnerballart.com
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1.
Oh wrap me in my country's flag And lay me in the cold blue sea, And let the roaring of the waves My solemn requiem be. And I shall sleep a pleasant sleep While storms above their vigils keep. My captain brave shall read for me The service of the silent dead, And, yea, shall lower me in the waves While all the prayers are said. And I shall find my long way home Among the billows and the foam. Farewell, my friends, for many a league We've sailed together on the deep. Come, let's shake hands, I'll sail no more But shipmates wherefore weep? I'm bound above, my course is run, I'm near the port, my voyage is done.
2.
Boney 05:27
When Boney he commanded his armies to stand, He leveled his cannon right over the land. And he leveled his cannon his victory to gain, And he slew my light horseman on the way in the wake of the plain. Chorus: Broken-hearted I'll wander, broken-hearted I will remain Since my bonny light horseman in the wars he was slain. Now the dove she laments for her mate as she flies. "Tell me where, oh, tell me where, is my poor darling?," she cries. And where in this wide world is there one who compares With my bonny light horseman who was slain in the war. Chorus Now if I were a small bird and I had wings for to fly, I would fly across the salt sea to where my love he does lie. And with my fond wings I would beat over his grave, And I'd kiss those pale lips that lie so cold in the clay. Chorus Chorus
3.
Jimmy Wells 04:06
You ask what makes this poor boy weep. Why I, like others, am not gay. Why tears come streaming down my cheeks from early dawn till close of day. My story people you shall hear, For in my mind it ever dwells. T’will cause you for to shed a tear O'er the grave of my sweet Jimmy Wells. Chorus Oh the birds were singing sweetly in the morning. The myrtle and the ivy were in bloom. And the sun o’er the hilltop was dawning The day we laid him in the tomb. I never will forget the day We stood together in the dell. I kissed him and we named the day That I would marry Jimmy Wells. But death came to my cabin door And took away my joy and pride. And when I found he was no more I laid my banjo down and cried. Chorus The springtime holds no charms for me, The flowers blooming in the dell. There is one form I cannot see It’s the form of my sweet Jimmy Wells. I’ve often wished that I was dead And laid beside him in the tomb. The sorrow that bows down my head Is darker than all the midnight's gloom. Chorus Chorus
4.
Come, oh thou traveler unknown Whom still I hold but cannot see. My company before is gone And i am left alone with thee. With thee all night I mean to stay And wrestle till the break of day. In vain thou struggleth to get free I never will unloose my hold. Will thou not yet to me reveal Thy new unutterable name? I pray thee still, beseech thee tell, To know it now resolved I am. Chorus Wrestling I will not let thee go, till I thy name and nature know. 'Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue Or touch the hollow of my thigh. Though every sinew be unstrung, Out of my arms thou shall not fly. Chorus Chorus Wrestling go I thee nature know and I will. Thee go will I nature wrestling thee I know. Till I thy and will go you nature. Nature will thee go and wrestling thee I thy.
5.
In the heat of the day, when sun shines so freely I met Master Kilby, so fine and so gay. I pulled off my hat and I bowed to the ground. I said Master Kilby, oh where are you bound? Bound for the west in hopes to find rest. In the arms of my dear Nancy, I’ll build a new nest. She’s the girl I adore, she’s the choice of my heart. Her skin shines like silver in every part. And if I were the master of ten thousand pounds In bright gold and silver or in King Williams’s crowns, I’d part with it all with my own heart so freely. It’s all for the sake of my charming Nancy. Gave her some kisses down by the seashore. Still she lay asking, lay asking for more.

about

Portmanteau is a queer folksong EP benefiting the Salus Center, Lansing, Michigan's LGBTQIA+ community center. The Salus Center means a lot to me. It's been a haven where I always feel welcome as a queer person when I return home from touring. Through Salus' partnership with Queering Medicine, I was able to receive queer-affirming medical care early in 2020. Due to the COVD-19 pandemic, this Black-, Latinx-, and trans-led resource center is at risk of losing its space in the heart of downtown Lansing. In response, I recorded these songs at home, late at night, singing into my phone. You'll hear rain on some of the tracks, and crickets singing on others. Seán Mac Erlaine (This is How we Fly) generously mastered them at his Dublin studio, donating his time and his impeccable ears. Michigan artist Warner Ball created the artwork and a limited run of cyanotype prints for the release. All the proceeds will be donated to the Salus Center. 

About the music:
A portmanteau (from French, "carry mantle") is something used to hold things. These are songs I've carried for many years, usually only sung late after summer evenings of dancing and fiddle tunes. On those nights, I would find myself sneaking away from the crowd to play quieter music, bringing an end (or sometimes not) to full days of teaching and performing. Those nights are my secret solace; a furtive love whose name I rarely speak, until now. A portmanteau also brings two things together, undoing a binary, collapsing things that were thought of as discrete. This EP chips away at the binary of my creative life as dancer and closet musician. It is a coming out, of sorts.

There are two story songs on the EP that I chose to sing with male pronouns (Boney and Jimmy Wells). The rest of the songs also confront death, disorientation, and desire in ways that feel very queer to me. A Dying Sailor to His Shipmates expresses heightened homonationalism at the end of the narrator's life after many years in homosocial conditions at sea. Vernon (Wrestling Jacob) grapples with unseen forces of corporeal eros, reminding me of the process of discovering my own queerness. Finally, In the Heat of the Day switches perspective halfway through in a way that feels both confusing and queer, ultimately leaving the subject unrequited, asking for more kisses she never gets.

About the Salus Center:
Founded in 2017, Salus Center serves Lansing’s LGBTQIA+ communities as a gathering space and information hub, advocating for the rights of community members by honoring and affirming the interconnectedness of oppression. They've made it their mission to build on the legacy of LGBTQIA+ activism to manifest a life that is authentic, safe, and full. Salus is Latin for wholeness and well-being. I've seen firsthand that the Salus Center is a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual , transgender, intersex, and asexual people to gather, connect, receive support, and explore their queerness. They provide clothing for trans people, a support group for queer youth, information about LGBTQIA+ medical care, and countless other services to the greater Lansing area. You can learn more about their work and donate to them directly at www.saluscenter.org.

credits

released September 4, 2020

All songs traditional except Vernon (Wrestling Jacob) by Charles Wesley.
A Dying Sailor to His Shipmates tune by Paul Clayton, lyrics recovered from a journal of a sailor aboard the Lucy Ann of Wilmington, Delaware, on a voyage from New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1837-1839.

Octave mandolin and vocals, Nic Gareiss.
Recorded on an iPhone 8 with a Shure MV88+ microphone.
Mastered by Séan Mac Erlaine.
Artwork by Warner Ball.
Photos by Laura Cortese and Ryan MacDonald.

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Nic Gareiss Lansing, Michigan

Dancer and musician Nic Gareiss has concertized in sixteen countries with many roots luminaries including Bill Frisell, Martin Hayes, Phil Wiggins, Karan Casey, and Colin Dunne. In 2020, Nic received the Michigan Heritage Award, his state's highest honor bestowed on traditional artists. Nic uses he/they pronouns, enjoys a daily nap, making and drinking cocktails, and reading queer theory. ... more

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