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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How Blue Can You Get?

Oct 7, 2016

When we asked Lyle Lovett why he didnt stick with journalism, he said, Its hard to sing the newspaper. From blues to country to Texas swing, Lyle and his large band can tell some good stor ies, and theyre not all about penguins. Well hear all about it (and more) when we sit down in conversation with Lyle. Howard Tate is a master of soulful singing, bringing his bluesy touch and deep meaning to such classics as Get it While You Can and Aint Nobody Home. Well talk about his life in...

Banjos Lost and Found

Apr 6, 2016

From the earliest blues and minstrel tunes to clawhammer bluegrass and forward to newgrass, the banjo has been a part of American music. This week we visit with New Orleans Creole jazzman Don Vappie and hear how the instrument is used in New Orleans traditional jazz. And feel the zeitgeist as San Diego-based Nickel Creek come by for a live set and talk about building onto their bluegrass base and moving beyond.

The Emperor and the Professor of New Orleans Music

Mar 9, 2016
Ernie K-Doe
Dave Cash

We recall two grand figures of New Orleans music beginning with Ernie K-Doe, the surreal soul man of catchy songs, and flamboyant antics in New Orleans R&B, from his hit "Mother-in-Law" to the "Burn K-Doe Burn" approach to his local radio show and serving as host and main attraction of his and wife Antoinette's Mother-in-Law Lounge. Ben Sandmel who wrote Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans joins the carnivalesque conversation . Then a piano tribute to Professor Longhair by Dr....

Show Mix 101715

Jan 7, 2016

American Routes reflects on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in words and music. Join us as we speak with those who knew Dr. King, from music scholar Albert Murray and historian Julian Bond to musicians Harry Belafonte and Mable John . Also, Mississippi riverboat captain Doc Hawley shares a unique memory of Memphis. Plus songs of freedom, deliverance and hope to commemorate this holiday weekend.

Music, Comics & Collecting Records

Dec 22, 2015

This week on American Routes we spin some shellac and wax nostalgic with the iconic cartoonist, musician and record collector Robert Crumb , wholl share with us his love of musical times gone by. Then we talk to educator and vinyl aficionado Jerry Zolten about the story of Paramount Records, started by a furniture manufacturer, whose recorded legacy is now contained in two swank suitcases.

American Routes celebrates music and musicians from New Orleans, Mississippi and French Louisiana. Recorded live at New Orleans venerable (1906) Civic Theatre, the show features New Orleans clarinetist Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band with the definitive Creole music born in the Crescent City: traditional jazz. White is joined by fellow NEA Heritage recipient, Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet and the influential band of the French Louisiana cultural revival BeauSoleil (good...

Billie Holiday: Ladies Sing the Blues & Beyond

Dec 17, 2015

For Billie Holiday's centennial celebration, we hear her voice in songs ranging from "God Bless the Child" and "My Man" to "Strange Fruit." 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. We follow Billie from her beginnings through a complex life of troubles and musical triumphs, her compelling "autumn" voice and untimely passing at age 44. Singer Catherine Russell...

Remembering Allen Toussaint: A Saint for All Seasons

Dec 10, 2015

This week on American Routes , we celebrate the life and work of the inimitable Creole gentleman and longtime friend Allen Toussaint. Well revisit our archived interviews, spanning over a decade. Well recall intimate conversations on music, life, love, friendship, tragedy and triumph, as well as listen to some of his best-remembered recordings.

Well re-visit the moment when the California long-hairs took over a Nashville studio to pay tribute to aging country heroes. A look back at the 1972 LP Will The Circle Be Unbroken with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and his memories of those historic sessions. Then, a conversation with another musician familiar with Nashville, jazz vibraphone master Gary Burton . Plus a visit with Jake Shimabukuro , for whom any genre is a fine match for the ukelele.

How do we capture the intangible power of music and memories? We'll first take a tour of the Lewis Family Museum and liquor store in Ferriday, Louisiana, where Jerry Lee Lewis sister Frankie Jean shows us around their family home decorated with show posters, weapons, magazine clippings, religious icons and other memorabilia. Then well visit with the mayor of Ferriday and the people who turned memories into reality of club/hotel/bus depot/post office Haney's Big House that burned down in 1966....

Thanksgiving with the National Heritage Fellows

Nov 19, 2015
Michael G. Stewart

Each year, American Routes celebrates the long Thanksgiving weekend with a sonic cornucopia from the National Heritage Fellows. Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has presented the fellowships - America's most prestigious award for folk & traditional arts. We'll hear music and conversation from Fellows in years gone by, like Doc Watson, Staple Singers, Clifton Chenier, Ralph Stanley, B.B. King, Flaco Jimenez and New Orleans' own Treme Brass Band. Then we present the 2015...

American Routes follows the journeys made by folklorist Alan Lomax as he documented the diversity of the traditional music of America, in the face of what he felt was the increased threat by popular monoculture. Well look into Lomaxs work as a sound recordist, cultural theorist, radio host and above all, shaper of 20 th century pop culture through his discoveries.

Modern Traditions: Ben Harper and Carl LeBlanc

Nov 5, 2015

The singer-songwriter Ben Harper has been on the scene since the early 90s, but now hes digging deeper into the blues with the legendary harpman Charlie Musselwhite. Well talk with Ben about the musical journey from his familys music store to his recent recording that he calls his graduation album. Then an in-studio conversation with a guitarist who has played with Sun Ra and now plays banjo with Preservation Hall, New Orleans own Carl LeBlanc.

A Grateful Journey: Kris Kristofferson

Oct 29, 2015

A conversation with a man of many talents: songwriter, actor, boxer, military man, among many titles, Kris Kristofferson , reflecting on his life in music, his songwriting craft, and the nature of gratitude for his lifes adventures.

This week on American Routes , we talk to Barbara Sims about her time working at Sun Studios as a publicist and promoter, and the search for the next Elvis. Then we dig into the archives for classic interviews with Suns founder Sam Phillips , Elvis sidemen DJ Fontana and Scotty Moore and the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis . Then we head over to North Alabama for a conversation on love, God and music with soul and disco siren Candi Staton .

Sacred Steel Brothers and a Jazz Master

Oct 15, 2015

Sacred steel guitarist Robert Randolph has gathered together the leading players of the genre for a recent recording, paying tribute to the past, and covering tunes outside the cannon. Well speak with him and one of his fellow Slide Brothers, Calvin Cooke . Then a conversation with jazz adventurist Yusef Lateef about his musical mentors and inspirations.

Sonic Travelers: Jerry Douglas and Guitar Shorty

Oct 8, 2015

Its a blues and country showdown on American Routes with two instrumental showmen. Jerry Douglas is a master of the dobro, and a favorite session man and band member for so many musicians: from Allison Krauss to Elvis Costello. Well talk to Jerry about his recent project, which leads him beyond bluegrass to New Orleans. Then, a visit with the acrobatic bluesman Guitar Shorty , who shares some history on his times traveling the Chitlin Circuit.

Riding the Rivers and Rails

Oct 1, 2015

Have you ever sailed the Mississippi on a riverboat? Heard a calliope bounce notes off a barge? Caught the freight train boogie? This week on American Routes , were riding the rails and sailing sails with words and music dedicated to two old forms of transport. Well visit with Captain Doc Hawley , a calliope player on the Natchez in New Orleans to find out what it takes to make a boat sing. And a conversation with singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle , who knows a thing or two about trains....

Singer-songwriter Iris DeMent returns to the landscape and soundscape of her youth, the Arkansas Delta. We'll speak with Iris about her musical homecoming, and listen in on an exclusive solo piano performance of her most recent songs. Then we catch up with the Lafayette punk and rockabilly-inflected Cajun band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers , fronted by brothers Andre and Louis Michot, who can count Gordon Gano (of the Violent Femmes) as a collaborator and fan.

Chuck Leavell & Jon Cleary

Sep 17, 2015

Meet two piano professors from the South with two differing styles. First up, from Macon, GA, Chuck Leavell has played in a few of Rocks most iconic bands, from the Allman Brothers to the Rolling Stones. And while piano might be his day job, hes also a keeper of a Georgia forest and an honorary forest ranger! We talk to Chuck about his love of the keys and the trees. Then, its a lesson in New Orleans funk a la keyboard with Jon Cleary , who breaks down the elements and reveals the Latin tinge...