In 2019, Will Harrison, known by his artist name November South, had an epiphany. He had spent almost a decade away from making music, focusing on his career and neglecting his passion. But a severe health scare changed everything. After undergoing major stomach surgery, Harrison realized that life is too short to ignore the things that truly matter. So, lying in his hospital bed, he reached out to his friend, Col. Jimmy Blackmon U.S. ARMY (Ret.), with a proposition.
Blackmon was no musician, but he had something else to offer: his incredible talent for storytelling. A best-selling author, Blackmon had spent much of his life in the military, and his experiences provided the inspiration for Harrison's new concept album. Over the next few months, the two collaborated remotely, with Harrison turning Blackmon's stories and poems into music in his home studio. The result was War Stories Volume 1 and War Stories Volume 2, a collection of 14 songs that explore the effects of war in the modern era.
One of the standout tracks on the albums is "Cold Dead Hands," which quickly became a fan favorite. With its driving rhythm and haunting vocals, the song perfectly captures the dark, patriotic vibe of the record. Some have likened the sound to a blend of Alice in Chains and Johnny Cash - a unique and unforgettable combination.
But "Cold Dead Hands" is just one example of the incredible musicianship and songwriting on display throughout the albums. From the raw energy of “The Ride" to the mournful balladry of "Mike," each track tells a powerful story in its own right. And yet, the albums are more than just a collection of great songs. They are a testament to the power of collaboration and the enduring bonds of friendship.
It's important to note that Harrison is not a veteran himself, but he feels honored to help tell the stories of those who have served their country. Through his music, he hopes to shed light on the struggles and sacrifices that so many have made, and to honor the memory of those who have given their lives for their country.
After Jimmy Blackmon and Will Harrison had written the 14 songs that would become War Stories Volume 1 and Volume 2, they knew they needed some additional musical talent to bring their vision to life. That's when Harrison reached out to his friend Matthew Putman, an incredible drummer and producer who has played in bands like Living Sacrifice, Norma Jean, Unwed Sailor and Love Drug.
Over the course of a year and a half, Putman and Harrison worked on the project, collaborating back and forth from their home studios slowly refining the sound. They eventually brought in a few more musicians to add their talents to the mix. Gabe Nelson, the bassist for the band CAKE, lent his skills to the project, while Josh Matheny (Carly Pearce, Sam Hunt) played dobro and steel guitar. Grayson Stewart (Norma Jean) played slide electric on Cold Dead Hands and Travis Knight (Southern Train Gypsies) played bass on Cold Dead Hands and electric guitar The Ride.
But the creative process didn't end there. To really make the music shine, Harrison and Putman reached out to one of Nashville’s best underground producer/mixer/multi-instrumentalists Jon Estes (Langhorne Slim, Steelism) to mix the records. Jon has worked with and had musical contributions with everyone from The Civil Wars and Kacey Musgraves to jazz artists like Bela Fleck and Jeff Coffin, all the way to pop artists like Kesha. Estes worked his magic and even composed and played the string arrangement on Monterey.
The end result of all this collaboration and hard work is a record that truly captures the spirit of the stories that inspired it. With its haunting melodies, driving rhythms, and powerful lyrics, War Stories Volume 1 and Volume 2 are a testament to the enduring power of music to tell the stories that need to be told. And while it may have taken a health scare to bring November South back to music, it has ultimately resulted in a project that not only showcases his musical talents, but also serves as a tribute to those who have served their country and the sacrifices they have made. November South's War Stories Volume 1 and Volume 2 is a powerful and moving work of art that resonates with listeners and leaves a lasting impact on those who hear it.