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.

Ways to Connect

In this special program, we visit Angola, the notorious plantation-turned-penitentiary, to hear stories and songs from within the prison’s walls. We talk with saxophonist Charles Neville about serving time at the “Farm” during the Jim Crow era, playing with fellow inmates in the Nic Nacs, and the role of music in integrating prison life. We hear previously unreleased Harry Oster field recordings of Mardi Gras Indian chants and bebop jazz from Angola in the late-50s.

Words and Music in the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.

Jan 9, 2018

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 Mavis Staples, 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.

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

Jan 2, 2018

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.

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

Dec 26, 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.

Holiday Soul and Spirits

Dec 19, 2017

For this special holiday edition of American Routes, we get into the spirit of the season with live performances by Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, and gospel greats the Blind Boys of Alabama at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter. Blind Boys’ founding member Jimmy Carter tells of his long life on the road through the Jim Crow south and around the world, and Irma Thomas describes her gospel roots and soul music’s role in protest and healing.

Rockin’ Behind the Iron Curtain: To Russia With Love

Dec 12, 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. Meanwhile, fear of nuclear war with the Soviets infiltrated American popular consciousness resulting in gospel, bluegrass and pop odes to and protests against atomic weapons.

Trombone Shorty… Casts a Long Shadow

Dec 5, 2017

Remembering Allen Toussaint: A Saint For All Seasons

Nov 28, 2017

We celebrate the songmaker, piano “professor” and producer from New Orleans who passed away suddenly in November 2015. A beloved Creole gentleman, Allen Toussaintwas a hometown hero and giant on the American music scene. He wrote over 800 songs and produced regional and national hit records such as “Java” (Al Hirt), “Mother-in-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “I Like it Like That” (Chris Kenner), “It’s Raining” (Irma Thomas), “Yes We Can” (Lee Dorsey) among others. Toussaint worked closely with the Meters, Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello.

Country-Soul Crossover

Nov 14, 2017

This week we are visited by two men with legendary voices, in country and soul, famous for their duets and more. First, we revisit our interview with the late George Jones. From the cotton patches of East Texas, Jones was one of the most distinctive voices in the history of country music. Known as "the King of Broken Hearts," his hits through the '60s and '70s remain the high-water mark for country ballads.  Sam Moore, formerly of Sam & Dave, recalls his early days as a gospel singer in Miami and his conversion to pop.

Rhythm & Blues into Rock & Roll

Nov 7, 2017

We pay tribute to the late Fats Domino with our favorite of the New Orleans piano man’s Imperial releases. And we hear the Fat Man’s reflective side in a rare 2007 conversation with him about escaping Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters and how his faith saw him through. Veteran blues harp player Billy “Boy” Arnold tells of South Side Chicago’s early rhythm & blues scene, recording with Bo Diddley, and Fats Domino’s role in pushing black music across the color line into what would become rock & roll.

Jews & Blues

Oct 31, 2017

Explore the connection between the wail of the cantor and the slide of a blues note--where jazz and western swing meet the klezmorium. Legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler recalls working with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and more.  Banjo player, and author Henry Sapoznik talks about going from Old Time Country back to the music of his roots, klezmer.  Plus jazz-inflected western swing, swinging klezmer and more.

Hallows and Harvest: American Routes Halloween Special

Oct 24, 2017

It's Halloween... a time of spirit and flesh, tricks and treats. We'll hear from Houma Indian carver and instrument-maker, Ivy Billiot, about rougarou— or werewolves — and the spirit world. Then Bentonia bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes tells us about the devil in daily life. Also songs about murder and mayhem, and beings from beyond the stars...  and beyond the grave. Plus music from Dr. John and Memphis Minnie, Hank Williams and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Creoles and Cowgirls

Oct 17, 2017

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.

More Words and Music

Oct 10, 2017

Music as literature…a concept explored by songwriter, singer and guitarist Laura Cantrell who joins us to talk about her picaresque journey from Nashville to New York.  And writer, cultural critic and Boston Boy Nat Hentoff recalls his famous associations from Charles Mingus to Billie Holiday and why Charlie Parker loved country music.  Plus Delhi, LA soul man Toussaint McCall talks about the writing of his magnum opus "Nothing Takes the Place of You."  Country, jazz, blues, R&B and more come together for this hardcover edition

Ponderosa Stomp and Americana Swamp

Oct 3, 2017

This week, we’re previewing the 2017 Ponderosa Stomp with master of ceremonies Dr. Ike, who shares his memories of pioneering the yearly extravaganza that turns the spotlight on the unsung heroes of American music. We visit the archives for a conversation with this year’s headliner, R&B guitar-woman from Beaumont, TX, Barbara Lynn.  We’ll also hear from Arizona Twangmaster Duane Eddy, who headlined back in 2010.

In this special program, we visit Angola, the notorious plantation-turned-penitentiary, to hear stories and songs from within the prison’s walls. We talk with saxophonist Charles Neville about serving time at the “Farm” during the Jim Crow era, playing with fellow inmates in the Nic Nacs, and the role of music in integrating prison life. We hear previously unreleased Harry Oster field recordings of Mardi Gras Indian chants and bebop jazz from Angola in the late-50s.

Latin Tinge

Sep 19, 2017

For National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the “Latin tinge” in American music.  We’ll hear a classic interview with the late nuyorican bandleader and King of the Timbales, Tito Puente, who tells us about the roots of tropical Latin jazz in Spanish Harlem. Then, it’s off to the West Coast, where we visit the Los Angeles club of the late, great bandleader Nati Cano. As leader of Mariachi Los Camperos, Nati Cano was a central figure in the Mexican Mariachi scene of East LA.

Rock and Soul from Memphis to Muscle Shoals

Sep 12, 2017

We road-trip to the fertile crescent of rock and soul with Barbara Sims, Sun Studios publicist and promoter, as she tells of her search for the next Elvis. We hightail it to North Alabama for a conversation on love, God and music with soul and disco siren Candi Staton. Then, we dig into the archives for classic interviews with Sun’s founder Sam Phillips, Elvis’ sidemen DJ Fontana and Scotty Moore and the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Rockin' the Blues

Sep 5, 2017

Tune in and rock the blues with two guitar men who do it with great authority. First up is Arkansas wild man and original Sun Records rockabilly Sonny Burgess who tore it up, playing his hits "We Wanna Boogie," "Red-Headed Woman" and others well into his eighties, before passing away last month. And hear a live set from the late great New Orleans bluesman and human jukebox Snooks Eaglin , recorded in 2007 at his home base, the famous Rock ‘N’ Bowl nightclub, where one can do either of those, or both, at the same time.

For Labor Day weekend …it’s Roots Rock & Soul, Jazz & the Working Man’s Blues. Summer’s end is in sight, but we get a little break from the grind ’cause blue Monday is at least another week away. Today we honor working folks with songs about coal miners, factory girls, a Labor Day carnival, and payday.  Plus … a live rockabilly show in New Orleans with guitarist Bill Kirchen.

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