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: 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.

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.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we’re recalling the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. We’ll hear memories of the Civil Rights leader from Harry Belafonte, former Raelette and preacher Mable John, and the great singer, Mavis Staples.

Nick Spitzer: Most people know Harry Belafonte from his calypso hit, the “Banana Boat Song.” But Belafonte’s efforts to improve conditions for people of color show more of the man. Harry was a friend of Martin Luther King, and produced “Long Road to Freedom,” an anthology of Black music.

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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Mavis Staples

Jan 5, 2018
Mavis Staples
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we feature gospel and R&B singer Mavis Staples, from the second installment of our show all about Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan admired the civil rights songs of the Staples singers and would hear them on tour in the early 60s. Mavis Staples remembers when her father, Pops, heard Dylan for the first time and how Dylan’s protest lyrics influenced their family in return.

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.

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