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.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Ben Jaffe

Feb 16, 2018
Ben Jaffe
American Routes

Ben Jaffe grew up in Preservation Hall, surrounded by jazz legends, immersed in the musical traditions his parents fought to preserve. He marched in Mardi Gras parades and jazz funerals, and toured the country with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, honing his chops as a bass and tuba player. 

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Monk Boudreaux

Feb 9, 2018
Monk Boudreaux
American Routes

Each year Mardi Gras Indians greet the day on the city streets to sing and strut. This has been going on since the late 19th century. The call and response sounds of the Indians often carry the Congo beat, fundamental in New Orleans' musical fabric. The beloved Indian chief Monk Boudreaux has been masking Indian for more than 70 years. We visited him at home where he quietly sewed his new suit.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Don Was

Feb 2, 2018
Don Was
American Routes

Record maven Don Was developed an ear for music in the Motor City. He made his way into studio recording with his band, Was Not Was, teaching himself how to pick and mix music. After striking out for LA in pursuit of his destiny, Don began racking up Grammys as a producer. He’s worked alongside Bryan Wilson, the Rolling Stones and Randy Newman, among others.  In 2012, Don became president of Blue Note Records, the label that introduced him to his love of music.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: William Bell

Jan 26, 2018
William Bell
American Routes

William Bell grew up on the south side of Memphis. His mother was a gospel singer. As a child he began singing in the church, as a teenager he befriended other future Stax stars, Isaac Hayes, Al Jackson Jr. and Booker T. Jones. Bell recalls his early days at Stax Records.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Charles Neville

Jan 19, 2018
Charles Neville with the Jazzmen at Angola Prison
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, saxophonist and Neville Brother, Charles Neville, shares about his time at Angola Prison in the 60s. He was among many great musicians who were sent to the penitentiary for drug offenses. One of his great contributions as an inmate was helping to racially and musically integrate prison life. Charles helped form the unlikely but prolific bebop group, the Nic Nacs and found solace in the music he encountered while at Angola.

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