American Routes

Rhythm & News: Sun • 2pm-4pm
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

Presenting a broad range of American music — from blues, jazz, gospel and soul, to rockabilly, zydeco, Tejano and roots rock – American Routes explores the shared musical and cultural threads that both distinguish and bind these diverse genres.  The program also presents documentary features and artist interviews that take listeners on journeys riding legendary trains, visiting street parades, discovering roadside attractions and meeting tap dancers, fishermen and fortunetellers.  The songs and stories on American Routes chronicle and celebrate both the community origins of American music and the musicians who create it.

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Record Mavens

Jul 17, 2018

Traveling at the speed of 45 RPM, we sink into the record grooves of some of our favorite songs and talk to the studio wizards who produced them. First stop is Nashville, home to Music Row as well as Easy Eye Sound, the recording studio of Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. We talk with Auerbach about his journey in music, from hearing vinyl on his parents’ turntable in Akron, Ohio, to cutting records with some of Nashville’s legendary session players.

Blue Note Records: Then and Now

Jul 10, 2018

We take a deep dive into the vaults of Blue Note Records, the independent label that helped put artists like Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey and Jimmy Smith on the map. Flagbearer of trad jazz, bebop and the cool school, Blue Note is still at it after 79 years and has expanded its wheelhouse to include vocalists like Norah Jones, Ryan Adams and Van Morrison. We talk with producer extraordinaire and Blue Note president Don Was about the label’s past and new directions.

And So Fourth!

Jul 3, 2018

Happy July Fourth! Add some sizzle to your backyard barbecue with hot licks from the stage as we roadtrip from New Orleans to Butte, Montana. We start off at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter for vocal fireworks from gospel quartet the Blind Boys of Alabama and Crescent City soul singer Irma Thomas, both backed by the mojo masters of Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Small Town Blues

Jun 26, 2018

Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy tells of the impact on his songs of growing up in the blue-collar town, Belleville, Illinois. Music became his creative outlet in high school and lead to founding the seminal Americana band, Uncle Tupelo. We hear from Jeff in his Chicago studio “The Loft” about the emergence of Wilco and the place that making music has in his life, including work with Woody Guthrie’s lyrics and producing records with Mavis Staples. In Bentonia, Mississippi, playing blues and running the Blue Front Cafe, has been a lifetime role for guitarist Jimmy “Duck” Holmes.

Summertime Variations

Jun 19, 2018

To kick off the summer season, American Routes is riding the airwaves to exotic destinations, swinging and surfing to all manner of beachside rhythms from the Beach Boys, Toots and the Maytals, Wilco and the Kinks. We also stay home to bask in the sultry heat of "Summertime," composed by George Gershwin and novelist Dubose Heyward in 1934 for the opera Porgy and Bess. It's one of the most covered tunes in the American songbook with over thirty thousand renditions. We'll hear takes from Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke and the Zombie

When Is Fathers' Day?

Jun 12, 2018

From “Ol’ Man River” to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” we turn to the American songbook for portraits of fatherhood, both kindly and cautionary, from down-home country to down-with-the-man rock’n‘roll and soul. We talk to New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis about family life and raising four career musicians—Wynton, Branford, Jason and Delfeayo. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys tells of working in the studio with his dad, Chuck Auerbach, who is making his recording debut at age 68 with Remember Me. Daughter Rosanne remembers Johnny Cash's voice and her favorite of his tunes.

Dreamers Then and Now

Jun 5, 2018

Creoles and Cowgirls

May 29, 2018

We hit up Preservation Hall in the French Quarter for a potent dose of trad jazz, as bandleader and fourth-generation Creole musician Charlie Gabriel tells of his Caribbean roots, jazz funerals, and New Orleans’ hybrid rhythms. Then we head to the Lonestar state to hear the reworking of jazz into Texas swing, as played by the Quebe Sisters. The fiddling siblings tell of their sheltered upbringing outside Ft. Worth and their fiery baptism into western swing.

Memorial Day with the NEA National Heritage Fellows

May 22, 2018

This Memorial Day, we celebrate the artists and artisans keeping American roots cultures alive. Every year since 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts has presented Heritage fellowships— America’s highest honor in “folk & traditional arts.” We hear music from past award recipients including swamp boogie chanteuse Carol Fran and bluegrass crooner Del McCoury.

Blues, Old, New & Beyond

May 15, 2018

We trace the musical DNA and psychic aura of the blues from its Delta roots to Chicago’s electric pioneers, across a patchwork of regional styles and modern day innovators. In an archival interview we talk with blues rockers the Black Keys of Akron, Ohio, about defying genre, eschewing nostalgia, and the blues progenitors who blurred labels like primitive and avant-garde.

The Killer, the Thriller, and the Chiller

May 1, 2018

From backwoods Louisiana to Beale Street, from hellfire to honky tonk, we trace the meteoric rise, fall and rebound of rocknroll’s most wayward son—Jerry Lee Lewis. We talk to the Killer about his hits, his misses and being the last man standing of rock’s originators. Jerry Lee’s sister Frankie Jean Lewis, a.k.a. the Chiller, gives us a tour of the family’s homestead in Ferriday, La. Bluesman Hezekiah Early shares memories of Haney’s Big House, the Chitlin’ Circuit nightclub where underage Jerry Lee sneaked in to hear boogie woogie. Drummer J.M.

Celebrating the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Apr 24, 2018

This week on American Routes, we’re celebrating the long-running New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with songs and interviews from the performers that make the festival happen. We hear from longtime local favorites, like chanteuse Topsy Chapman and funk drummer Herlin Riley, as well as perennial visitors and jazz titans, McCoy Tyner and Sonny Rollins.

Sisters, Brothers, Lovers & Others

Apr 17, 2018

Exploring the musical ties that bind, we spin platters from our favorite harmonizing pairs and family affairs. We map the careers of West Texas-troubadour Jimmie Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders and So-Cal rocker Dave Alvin of the Blasters and trace the events that led to their cosmic collaboration.

Festival International de Louisiane

Apr 10, 2018

This holiday weekend  American Routes  boogies down to bayou country to catch live music at Festival International, a showcase of French music from southwest Louisiana and the wider Francophone world along with blues, Chicano nouveau and swamp pop. For the 31st annual festival, we hear female Cajun supergroup  Bonsoir, Catin  tear up the stage; bluesman  Corey Harris  ring out the Mississippi Delta’s West African roots; and blue-eyed soul from swamp pop legends  Johnnie Allan ,  T.K. Hulin , and  G.G. Shinn .

This week, American Routes revisits the best live performances from the 2016 Baton Rouge Blues Festival. We’ll feature swamp blues, Mississippi Delta blues, hill country blues, and the blues rocked out. Artists include Howlin’ Wolf’s pianoman Henry Gray, harp player Lazy Lester, Kenny Neal and family, Slim Harpo’s right-hand guitar man James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson, songmaker Luke Winslow King, New Orleans soul funkster Walter “Wolfman” Washington and R.L. Burnside’s grandson, Kent Burnside. Plus a visit to Teddy’s Juke Joint nearby on Highway 61 in Zachary, LA.

Spring is in air! We explore the vernal season and its garden of delights with meditative jazz, soul serenades and sunny reggae rhythms. Rev. Al Green tells about growing up in rural Arkansas, how music saves souls and his journey from the stage to the pulpit. Plus bunny hops, bops and boogies; Easter parades; songs of rebirth and romance; and jazz & Jamaican celebrations of Passover.

Music of Healing & Elixirs

Mar 20, 2018

From hoodoo cure-alls to feel-good elixirs, we explore the musical world of sickness and health. We talk with Little Freddie King about how the blues saved all nine of his lives. New Orleans songwriter Anders Osborne tells of self-medicating and the pain relievers that do more harm than good. Tim Duffy of the Music Maker Relief Foundation explains the curative properties of music on society. And clarinetist Dr. Michael White talks jazz and its role in helping New Orleans to recover after Katrina. Plus, medicine show troubadours hawk their tonics, Dr.

Fellow Travelers

Mar 13, 2018

We're on the road again, dialed into high-flying honky-tonk as we cruise through Texas cotton patches and Midwestern pastures of plenty. Starting off in Illinois farm country, we meet up with Margo Price, who followed her dreams of songwriting to Nashville, Tennessee. She put her name on the map with songs about growing up in rural America, and has since dug in her heels while singing about a landscape of gender and economic inequities.

San Antonio Sounds: Music of the Mission City

Mar 6, 2018

The great Texas river city is a mix of Mexican, German, Anglo and African American cultures, among others. Home to the Texas Conjunto Festival and the International Accordion Festival, San Antonio is best known for Tex-Mex or Tejano music played by squeeze box masters like Flaco Jimenez , Narciso Martinez and Mingo Saldivar among many. We’ll speak with Flaco, who in collaborations with Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder, and Los Super Seven, has carried the music worldwide.

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