American Routes

Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

American Routes is a two-hour weekly excursion into American music, spanning eras and genres—roots rock and soul, blues and country, jazz, gospel and beyond.

American Routes Shortcuts: Masakowski Family

Jun 15, 2018
Masakowski Family
American Routes

Steve Masakowski has worked with Allen Toussaint, Mose Allison, Dianne Reeves, and many others. He’s a Blue Note recording artist, member of the fusion group Astral Project, inventor of the keytar, and professor of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans. Steve is also father to professional musicians Sasha and Martin Masakowski. We spoke to all three about their home life, solo careers, and performing together as the Masakowski Family.

When Is Fathers' Day?

Jun 12, 2018

From “Ol’ Man River” to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” we turn to the American songbook for portraits of fatherhood, both kindly and cautionary, from down-home country to down-with-the-man rock’n‘roll and soul. We talk to New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis about family life and raising four career musicians—Wynton, Branford, Jason and Delfeayo. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys tells of working in the studio with his dad, Chuck Auerbach, who is making his recording debut at age 68 with Remember Me. Daughter Rosanne remembers Johnny Cash's voice and her favorite of his tunes.

American Routes Shortcuts: Samantha Fish

Jun 8, 2018
Samantha Fish
American Routes

Guitarist Samantha Fish grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where classic rock radio and a local club lead her to the stage. She studied Delta blues guitar players, as well as Bonnie Raitt and Slash, to develop a modern blues sound. Samantha has proved her ability to shred, and has released five solo albums since 2009.

Samantha Fish: I didn’t really get into music until I was a teenager, I guess. I mean I just sort of found it. I was really shy, and it became an outlet then for me.

Dreamers Then and Now

Jun 5, 2018

American Routes Shortcuts: Charlie Gabriel

Jun 1, 2018
Charlie Gabriel
American Routes

Sax and clarinet player Charlie Gabriel’s roots are in New Orleans traditional jazz, but he made a name for himself playing with Lionel Hampton and Aretha Franklin. Charlie learned how to play saxophone and clarinet from his father in the Crescent City, and he began playing in local bands at age 11. As a teen, his family moved to Detroit, where he lived for almost 60 years before returning home to New Orleans to play with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Creoles and Cowgirls

May 29, 2018

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Carol Fran

May 25, 2018
Carol Fran
Michael G. Stewart (NEA)

Carol Fran has had a long career as an entertainer on the nightclub circuit from South to Southwest. She’s worked the joints from Juarez to New Orleans, playing swamp pop and soul, jazz and country, along the way making records for the legendary Excello label.

Carol Fran: I was called the Sarah Vaughan of the Vieux Carré. The older gals didn’t like that, but they couldn’t do nothing about it.

Nick Spitzer: Bourbon Street from the ‘50s, huh? Who was in those clubs when you were there?

CF: Frogman Henry, Papa Celestin, Snookum Russell, Alma Lollipop.

Memorial Day with the NEA National Heritage Fellows

May 22, 2018

This Memorial Day, we celebrate the artists and artisans keeping American roots cultures alive. Every year since 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts has presented Heritage fellowships— America’s highest honor in “folk & traditional arts.” We hear music from past award recipients including swamp boogie chanteuse Carol Fran and bluegrass crooner Del McCoury.

American Routes Shortcuts: Robert Finley

May 18, 2018
Robert Finley
American Routes

At 65 years old, Robert Finley is finally getting his due. After serving in an Army band, working as a carpenter, and busking, Robert’s talents were discovered in 2015 by Music Maker Relief Foundation. He released a debut album, “Age Don’t Mean a Thing.” He later connected with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who produced the next one, “Goin’ Platinum.” Robert Finley took us back to his youth in Winnsboro, Louisiana.

Robert Finley: My dad was a sharecropper so I picked my share of cotton. You know, we were poor but we didn’t know it. It was a happy poor.

Blues, Old, New & Beyond

May 15, 2018

We trace the musical DNA and psychic aura of the blues from its Delta roots to Chicago’s electric pioneers, across a patchwork of regional styles and modern day innovators. In an archival interview we talk with blues rockers the Black Keys of Akron, Ohio, about defying genre, eschewing nostalgia, and the blues progenitors who blurred labels like primitive and avant-garde.