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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San Antonio Sounds: Music of the Mission City

Aug 16, 2017

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 Téjano music played by squeeze box masters like Flaco Jiménez, 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.

San Antonio Sounds

Aug 15, 2017

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 Téjano music played by squeeze box masters like Flaco Jiménez, 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.

Small Town Blues

Aug 8, 2017

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.

At the peak of 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 Zombies.

How Many Roads: Bob Dylan’s Back Pages Volume II

Jul 25, 2017

In this second edition of "How Many Roads?" Bob Dylan's Back Pages, we'll rejoin the great American wordsmith by listening to his work from the last 25 years. We won't forget the historic and ancient roots of his modern sounds, from the Old Testament to the Civil Rights movement. We'll hear from collaborators and friends, Mavis Staples and Joan Baez, and from Kris Kristofferson who overheard Dylan's recording sessions while working as a custodian in Nashville.

It’s summertime, and the living is easy on American Routes, where we’ve got cool tunes from Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Beach Boys to help you beat that summer heat. We’ll hear memories of Sea Breeze, NC, a historically Black resort community that was an early site of integration in the Jim Crow South… And visit with some surfers at Mission Beach, San Diego.

Rockin’ Behind the Iron Curtain: To Russia With Love

Jul 11, 2017

During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department started sending jazz musicians overseas with the tactical aim of using their hot licks to thaw relations with Eastern Bloc countries. Jazz great Dave Brubeck recalls how Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. “Ambassador Satch,” won international hearts and minds with his trumpet. Band member Arvell Shaw saw Armstrong literally disarm Russian guards in East Berlin.

The Folk Revival Revisited

Jul 3, 2017

The American folk music revival that grew from the Post-WWII era to the Sixties was about more than just music: it wrapped in political activism, romantic visions of the self and the “folk,” group “sing-a-longs,” “hootenannies” and careers of singer-songwriters. We interview folk heroine Judy Collins about her move from traditional British folk songs to the new songs and sounds in Greenwich Village. Jug bandleader Jim Kweskin talks about his love of communal living.

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 AllanT.K. Hulin, and G.G.

Billie Holiday: Ladies Sing the Blues & Beyond

Jun 20, 2017

We follow Billie Holiday from her beginnings through a complex life of troubles and musical triumphs, her compelling "autumn" voice and untimely passing at age 44. Biographers John Szwed and Robert O'Meally discuss Lady Day's style and significance, while Cassandra Wilson describes and sings her approach to the Billie Holiday oeuvre. Singer Catherine Russell describes reaching back to recreate classic blues and jazz. From our archives we hear Nina Simone and Bonnie Raitt praising their blues heroines in story and song.

Trombone Shorty… Casts a Long Shadow

Jun 13, 2017

This week on American Routes, we're celebrating the life and music of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Schooled in the sounds of his family and New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood, Shorty has been a musician since the age of four.

Guilty Pleasures: Music We Love More Than We Can Say

Jun 6, 2017

We take a deep dive into the memory vaults to spin the tunes that we shamelessly love. From guilty pleasures, including a disco dance number, to confessional ballads like James Carr’s “Dark End of the Street” and songs of redemption ala Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” we shine a light on our heart’s true delights. Plus, we explore social protest anthems including Mavis Staples' "Long Walk to D.C.," Simon & Garfunkle's "Richard Cory," and a standout R & B version of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" sung by Shreveport's Toussaint McCall.

Jesse Winchester, Wayne & Jayne Henderson

May 30, 2017

We’ll remember the late singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester, through his music and his own words. Then a visit to Rugby, VA for a close listen into sustainable guitars and ukuleles, made by Jayne and Wayne Henderson, of Henderson Guitars.

Memorial Day with the NEA National Heritage Fellows

May 23, 2017

American Routes celebrates Memorial Day weekend with a sonic feast from National Endowment for the Arts’ Heritage Fellows--recipients of America's most prestigious award in folk & traditional arts. We'll hear music and conversation from past Fellows: bluegrass picker Del McCoury, rockabilly Wanda Jackson, sacred steel guitarists, the Campbell Brothers, and late blues singer Koko Taylor. The 2016 Fellows included: Mardi Gras Indian Chief Monk Boudreaux, Irish accordionist Billy McComiskey and Mexican-American singer Artemio Posadas.

Los Angeles: Soundtrack for the Angels

May 16, 2017

In this special program, American Routes' host Nick Spitzer uncovers the music and cultural traditions of Los Angeles: from Hollywood to neighborhood. Join Nick as he travels across the City of Angels to hear from L.A. legends -- including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and songwriter Randy Newman -- and explores musical cultures with Cambodian-born rapper PraCh Ly in Long Beach, Louisiana Creole zydeco accordionist T-Lou in South Central, and East L.A.'s Ersi Arvizu.

Mother’s Day

May 9, 2017

American Routes celebrates Mother's Day with Marty Stuart and his mom, Hilda. We'll talk about their shared love of photography and a certain girl singer, Connie Smith. Then we'll hear stories about mothers from Fontella Bass, Sonny Rollins, Bo Diddley, and Geno Delafose, among others. Plus songs from blues to bluegrass about and for dear old mom.

News Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festivals of Now and Yore

May 2, 2017

This week on American Routes, we're celebrating the 47th annual 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...

Cosmic Saxophones

Apr 25, 2017

This week on American Routes, we give voice to the saxophone—an instrument revered by everyone from free jazzmen like Charles Lloyd to soul rocker Charles Neville, of the Neville Brothers. New Orleanian Charles Neville tells us how music carried him through his family, his neighborhood and a segregated South. Charles Lloyd, a real California dreamer, traces the roots of his modern, free style and musical collaborations back to the blues of Memphis.

"How Many Roads…?” Bob Dylan’s Back Pages

Apr 18, 2017

Bob Dylan’s songs are part of American consciousness, with sources and symbols drawing from old-time country and folk, blues and ballads, ancient and modern poetry, the beauties and absurdities of life, love and loss.  His contributions to the big river of songs have grown and been recognized worldwide.  The young man from Hibbing, Minnesota, is now an elder… a Nobel Laureate; but his listeners didn’t need that or any such weathervane to prize Bob Dylan. It was, and is, always in his words and voice,  music and memory where fans and friends found inspiration.

Prison Songs: Remembering Merle Haggard

Apr 11, 2017

American Routes explores the music associated with outlaws and life behind bars, from "Ball and Chain" to "Jailhouse Rock," from Johnny Cash’s San Quentin show to Leadbelly’s "Midnight Special.” We revisit our 2000 interview with the late-Merle Haggard, and then talk to Aaron Neville about his experience with incarceration. Plus a visit to the "Wildest Show in the South"--the Angola, Louisiana Prison Rodeo.

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