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

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.

Guilty Pleasures: Music We Love More Than We Can Say

Feb 27, 2018

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 & Garfunkel's "Richard Cory," and a standout R&B version of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" sung by Shreveport's Toussaint McCall.

Stories From the Road

Feb 20, 2018

We hit the open road to hear tales of adventure and woe from honky-tonkers and hobos, train-hoppers and busking bohemians. En route we talk with Washington folk singer Brandi Carlile, who dropped out of high school to cut it as a touring musician, and New Orleans’ Meschiya Lake, about her journey from circus performer to jazz chanteuse. Driving on in search of mythic America, we hear the voices of its discontents: Woody Guthrie, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Wilco and Pops Staples.

Preservation Hall Perseveres

Feb 13, 2018

We are live in New Orleans at Preservation Hall for the nouveau stylings and hybrid sounds that have been cooking up in the historic jazz hub since second-generation director and bass player Ben Jaffe took the helm. We hear funky new grooves from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, whose band members range from 20-somethings to an octogenarian. And we witness the sonic chemistry when the band is paired with singer Tom Waits, bluegrasser Del McCoury and New Orleans hoodoo rocker Dr.

It's Carnival Time

Feb 6, 2018

From New Orleans to southern France, Trinidad to Brazil, we celebrate Mardi Gras masquerading and dancing to the beat of Carnival music. We’ll visit with Mardi Gras Indian Chief Monk Boudreaux as he suits up in handmade, feathered regalia and struts through the streets with his gang. Then we travel to southern France for the Carnival parade and music of Nice, and costumed revelry a few hours east in the wine country town of Limoux. Back home in French Louisiana, it’s the Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras where beggar clowns dance for a chicken to put in a communal gumbo feast.

Blue Note Records

Jan 30, 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.

Song Makers and Song Takers

Jan 23, 2018

This week on American Routes, we hear from great songwriters and performers- and those who emulate them. Original songs can take on new form and meaning when interpreted by different voices, and we’ll hear some of those renditions and transformations this week. We’ll hear the rocking Southern sound of the Drive-By Truckers covering Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles doing Hank Williams.  Our guest William Bell, from Memphis, will tell us all about his music being played by the Byrds, and bluesman Albert King.

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

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