Hidey! And welcome to Arkansas. What began as the idea of a veteran to ride his bike until the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has opened up like a spider lily in the Arkansas fall. Now we are into poetry and music makin'.
Peace from the Hills is an invitation to activate your own heritage, wherever you are in the world. To build a world where violence is no more and creative non-violence is the norm, we aim to respect and engage our diverse traditions and religions, and speak and sing with our native accents and styles of music.
Soldier's Heart is hillbilly conscious-folk with a pinch of bluegrass, storytelling, and resistance. Sing along with the album and read about each song with the Soldier's Heart Song Book.
"I’m a three tour veteran of the Afghan war struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but I don’t consider myself disorderly; I feel this is a natural consequence of war. PTSD has had many names over the years: Battle Fatigue, Shell Shock, War Neurosis, and Soldier's Heart, to name a few. I feel Soldier's Heart, the American Civil War term, is most appropriate for what I struggle with. My heart is wounded as a result of Moral Injuries and this album is an attempt to explore my wounds." | Jacob George
For Jacob George, music and activism were inseparable acts. There was a banjo strapped to his bicycle for every mile of the ‘ride,’ and Jacob often used it as a way to open doors with strangers. Early on, his music and songwriting were relatively rudimentary but nonetheless delightful. He had deep traditional musical roots from growing up in the hills of Danville, Arkansas, a remote community in the Ouachita Mountains. Jacob had only written a handful of songs and these were actually his adaptations of military marching cadences, well known to every serviceman.
There is an example of one of these cadences he called "Back Home" on the Peace from the Hills collection. This fine compilation of musicians and poets from Fayetteville, Arkansas, was organized as a way for Jacob to offset expenses during his ride across the country. It was produced by Jacob’s cousin, Stephen Coger and recorded by myself. Fayetteville is well known for its artistic community and this compilation captures some of its best at their best. There are a couple of Jacob’s poems on this CD as well.
Soldier’s Heart is an entirely different story. This is a profoundly important recording—a riveting document of a soldier’s anguish from beginning to end. Jacob had been on the road for a couple of years when he called me and told me that he had written a batch of songs with the help of a friend, Adam Cox. Adam is a very fine writer of topical songs that champion working class themes. Jacob asked me if he could make a simple recording with banjo and voice of these songs in my studio. I expected it to be a quick one-day session and so I agreed.
Well, the session took an unexpected turn. It was immediately apparent to me that Jacob had experienced some sort of epiphany since I had last heard him play. His performance was absolutely stunning. Every song soared. He knocked out nearly every cut in one take. I could hardly breathe till each new song was over. I knew that I was in the presence of greatness. It was clear to me that this project was profoundly important and deserved proper production, and I felt compelled to try my best to fulfill that need.
Soldiers Heart is a great piece of art—a recording that could change the world given the chance. It is a most direct and honest account of what it means to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or what Jacob called "soldier's heart" (the American Civil War-era term for PTSD). It gives civilians, such as me, a glimpse into the complex world of PTSD. It cuts to the heart of our endless struggle to find some peace in our war-obsessed culture. Jacob said that "moral injury" was a major component of PTSD and that this album was like medicine—part of his healing. This is good medicine for all soldiers coming home from our misguided wars, and it's good medicine for all of us who sent those soldiers to do our bidding.
Jacob George is like a shooting star. Compelled to speak the truth, he devoted himself to making this a better world and burst into the hearts of folks all across this country and beyond. He is gone in a flash, but his music stays here.
Co-Producer, engineer, and instrumentalist of Soldier’s Heart, Jacob George's solo album