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American Routes

Thursday, 7 to 9 p.m.


Hosted by Nick Spitzer, American Routes covers the "vast American musical landscape," spanning genres and eras: From Aretha Franklin to George Jones, Los Lobos to Howlin' Wolf, Count Basie to Beck.

This program is available for sponsorship! (Contact Ron Horan for more details.)

Upcoming Programs

Mar 23rd: Philly Soul Folks & Louisiana Swamp Pop: John Oates & Johnnie Allan

While they don't all have blue-eyes, the white soul and swamp pop guys and gals from Philadelphia and South Louisiana have created distinctive regional sounds of national significance. In Philadelphia, we sample soul roots of the famed band Hall & Oates; and learn from John Oates that -- despite years of pop music, big hair and synthesizers-- at heart he is also a folkie into to country blues and flat-picked guitar a la Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt… which he plays live for us! The angelic-voiced Daryl Hall, on the other hand is more disciple of the Temptations who we'll hear along with the Orlons, The O'Jays and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. In south Louisiana the simmering pot of music that draws on Cajun, R&B, soul and country ends up as a tasty dish called Swamp Pop. Johnnie Allan (Guillot) is a Cajun Swamp Pop chef extraordinaire with hits like “South to Louisiana” and a version of the “Promised Land” played on the French accordion. He's surrounded by music from Earl King, Cookie & the Cupcakes, and Slim Harpo. Tasty indeed!

Mar 30th: The Baton Rouge Blues Festival

This weekend, American Routes is stomping the blues with live performances from the 2016 Baton Rouge Blues Festival… featuring 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

Apr 6th: Alison Krauss and Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff

This week on American Routes, fiddler and singer Allison Krauss talks about her journey through bluegrass and country, from small-town Illinois all the way to Nashville. Then it's Hurray for the Riff Raff, a New Orleans folk band with roots in the Bronx, fronted by Alynda Segarra. We’ll also have music from Chuck Berry, Bob Willis, Nina Simone and Tom Waits.

Apr 13th: Prison Songs: Remembering Merle Haggard

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.

Apr 20th: "How Many Roads…?” Bob Dylan’s Back Pages

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. Bob's songs ask questions and seek action. They remain timely in this dark season with a New Year ahead. We hear Dylan’s early, classic, rare and more recent recordings along with comments from Joan Baez and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back”). Also Dylan’s music as played by the Byrds and the Band, Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone, Doug Sahm and Sandy Denny. We hope you enjoy listening to this program as much as we did making it.

Apr 27th: The Emperor and the Professor of New Orleans Music: Ernie K-Doe & Professor Longhair

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. John, Jon Cleary and George Porter, live from the legendary New Orleans club Tipitina's, named after Longhair's most famous song. We also play the original recordings with commentary from Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, producer Jerry Wexler, and studio recordist Cosimo Matassa.


Previous Programs

Mar 16th: Timekeepers: The Art of Drumming with JM Van Eaton, Zigaboo Modeliste, Tito Puente, Ben Riley and Shannon Powell

This week on American Routes, we’re keeping the beat with drummers and rhythm makers across the genres: everyone from Sun Records’ Rockabilly drummer JM Van Eaton, to jazz percussionist Ben Riley, who had to keep up with the unconventional rhythms of Thelonious Monk. In between, we listen live in-studio to New Orleans’ King of Treme, Shannon Powell, whose music takes us from the church to the streets and beyond. The funky backbone of The Meters, Joseph,”Ziggy” Modeliste tells us what it really means to hit a groove, and we’ll play an encore presentation of our interview with New York City percussionist, Tito Puente, El Rey de los Timbales.

Mar 9th: Small Town Blues: Jeff Tweedy and Jimmy Duck Holmes

Mar 2nd: The Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Black Experience in Country Music

This week, we talk to the founding members of the Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Justin Robinson, Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons started playing music together under the tutelage of legendary black old-time fiddler, Joe Thompson in his backyard shed. The Chocolate Drops came together to carry on the old time and country traditions from the Piedmont region in the Carolinas, but they wanted to do more than just play. They wanted to show their audiences that African American music finds its roots in genres beyond blues and jazz. Then we delve into the archives for our classic conversation with the late, great Ray Charles - and pianist Johnnie Johnson tells us about the surprising origins of Chuck Berry's "Maybellene."

Feb 23rd: Carnival Knowledge: Monk Boudreaux, Southern France, Coney Island Mermaid Parade

For our annual pre-Lenten bacchanal, we bring you classic Mardi Gras songs from the Crescent City and beyond. We travel to Nice, France - grand city on the Cote d'Azure - for a float parade that parodies American fast food assembly lines and French political scandals as stinky as local cheese; From there, on to the vintners village of Limoux, where free glasses of blanchette are never empty. We end our journey in Coney Island NY, where we hear of carnivalesque revelry at America's great amusement park by the sea and walk with the fishes in the Mermaid Parade. Finally, New Orleans’ own Monk Boudreaux walks us through the sites and sounds of Mardi Gras Day. Big Chief of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe, Boudreaux has sewed suits, performed music with the Wild Magnolias and masked on Mardi Gras for over 50 years.