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: CJ Chenier

Apr 13, 2018
CJ Chenier
American Routes

Accordionist CJ Chenier is the son of the late king of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, who mixed R&B and soul into Louisiana Creole music. CJ was raised in Texas away from his French-speaking relatives. He played in jazz and funk bands, finally joining Clifton’s band and playing accordion a few years before the king passed in 1987. Like his father, CJ continues to push the boundaries of Creole music.

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 .

James "Chicken Scratch" Johnson
American Routes

Guitarist James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson grew up near Baton Rouge in Erwinville. When he was in elementary school, guitarist Albert Collins played a concert there. In that moment Johnson knew what he wanted to do. Years later, James joined with harmonica player Slim Harpo on beloved songs like “Raining in My Heart” and “Scratch My Back.” Nick Spitzer spoke with James Johnson the night before the 2016 Baton Rouge Blues Festival about playing with Slim Harpo and growing up in the country.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Al Green

Mar 30, 2018
Al Green
American Routes

Al Green and his band, the Creations, including high school friends Curtis Rodgers and Palmer James, had their first hit in 1968. A year later, Green met up with Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, and the two went on to record hit after hit throughout the 1970s, including “Here I Am.” Green was born outside of Memphis in Forrest City, Arkansas, where he grew up close to the land.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Little Freddie King

Mar 23, 2018
Little Freddie King
American Routes

Bluesman Little Freddie King hopped on a train from McComb, Mississippi, to New Orleans as a youth in the early 1950s. Over the years, he’s developed his own electric country-blues style. Life hasn’t always been easy for Freddie but he says he’s blessed with at least nine lives. 

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Margo Price

Mar 16, 2018
Margo Price
American Routes

Margo Price brings Midwestern working class credentials to country music. From Aledo, Illinois, Margo followed her uncle Bobby Fisher’s footsteps as a Nashville songwriter. While working odd jobs, Margo formed the Pricetags, who joined her on the 2016 debut album, “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.” Price has always been outspoken about the rights of women and the working class, subjects she’s channeled into her music.

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.

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