JIM MILLS was born and raised in Arkansas, and began singing almost as soon as he could talk. He got his first guitar at age five, after which his daddy took him to see an old timer who taught him a few chords. He’s been playing ever since. A stint as a church caretaker started his interest in piano. “They had one in every room, and as I’d clean, I’d take a break and play on every one of them.” As a child, Jim sang in church, then later with high school friends. He began performing around town and soon attracted a loyal following. He’s played all over the country, opened for J.J. Cale, and recorded and played with Arkansas’ legendary Cate Brothers.
Divas on Fire is a super-group unlike any other -- a unique collaboration of ten of the most successful women blues artists in their respective region who have come together to create a powerhouse sound. The group's live performances give audiences no relief as their show ignites and burns red hot from first to final note. Their collective history includes a Memphis Sun Studios recording artist, several Northwest Arkansas Music Awards winners, several Arkansas competition winners for the International Blues Competition, an Arkansas Blues Hall of Famer. And yet a few others have more recently started their musical journey while quickly collecting awards, accolades, and fan loyalty. The name Divas on Fire is more of a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that they have all been called musical divas, but in reality each puts the music and each other first.
Looking like a man from leaner and meaner times, Willie Watson steps on stage with a quiet gravitas. But, when he opens his mouth and lets out that high lonesome vocal, you can hear him loud and clear.
His debut solo album, Folk Singer Vol. 1, was produced by David Rawlings at Woodland Sound Studios, the studio he co-owns with associate producer Gillian Welch in Nashville, TN, over the course of a pair of two-day sessions, for their own Acony Records label. The album spans ten songs from the American folk songbook ranging from standards like “Midnight Special,” “Mexican Cowboy” and Richard “Rabbit” Brown’s “James Alley Blues” to the more obscure, like Memphis Slim’s 12-bar blues, “Mother Earth,” Gus Cannon and the Jug Stompers’ “Bring it With You When You Come,” Land Norris’ double-entendre kids chant, “Kitty Puss” and St. Louis bluesman Charley Jordan’s sing-song “Keep It Clean.” Like the music, Willie can be murderous, bawdy or lustful, sometimes in the course of a single song, with a sly sense of humor that cuts to the quick. He counters a masterful bravado with the tragic fragility of one who has been wounded.
National Park Radio singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist Stefan Szabo is an old soul, 30 going on 60. He got married on his 18th birthday, had two daughters by the time he was 21, and didn’t even start to write songs until he was 27. From the first note of his band’s debut album, The Great Divide, it is apparent his music is timeless – it could well have been recorded at any point over the last 100 years, and its subjects are just as eternal – the urge to discover and explore the great wilderness, while remaining true to family, community and an open-minded belief system. It’s about surviving hard times (“I Will Go On,” “Rise Above”), the ups and downs of relationships (“Monochrome,” “The Ground and the Knee”), questioning religious dogma (“Ghost,” “Once Upon a Time”) and