American Routes

To kick off the summer season, American Routes is riding the airwaves to exotic destinations, swinging and surfing to all manner of beachside rhythms from the Beach Boys, Toots and the Maytals, Wilco, and the Kinks. We also stay home to bask in the sultry heat of "Summertime," composed by George Gershwin and novelist Dubose Heyward in 1934 for the opera Porgy and Bess. It's one of the most covered tunes in the American songbook with over thirty thousand renditions. We'll hear takes from Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, and the Zombies.

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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.

As the promise of summer rises with the heat index, we explore the world of daydreams, nostalgia, fantasy and future selves. Time travel with songwriting scenester Eric Andersen back to his days hanging with the Beats at City Lights bookstore and Greenwich Village’s folk music scene, train-riding across Canada with Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy and the Grateful Dead and tripping out on music and hallucinogens.

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 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 AllanT.K. Hulin, and G.G. Shinn.

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.

Little Freddie King, Anders Osborne, Dr. Michael White & Music Maker Relief Foundation
 

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.

The great Texas river city is a mix of Mexican, German, Anglo and African American cultures, among others. Home to the Texas Conjunto Festival and the International Accordion Festival, San Antonio is best known for Tex-Mex or Téjano music played by squeeze box masters like Flaco Jiménez, Narciso Martinez and Mingo Saldivar among many.

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.

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. John.

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.

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. 

How Many Roads: Bob Dylan’s Back Pages Volume II 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.

HOLIDAY SOUL AND SPIRIT: LIVE FROM PRESERVATION HALL WITH IRMA THOMAS & THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA 
 

During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department started sending jazz musicians overseas with the tactical aim of using their hot licks to thaw relations with Eastern Bloc countries. Jazz great Dave Brubeck recalls how Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. “Ambassador Satch,” won international hearts and minds with his trumpet. Band member Arvell Shaw saw Armstrong literally disarm Russian guards in East Berlin. Meanwhile, fear of nuclear war with the Soviets infiltrated American popular consciousness resulting in gospel, bluegrass and pop odes to and protests against atomic weapons.

Remembering Allen Toussaint: A Saint for All Seasons    

New Orleans’ Ponderosa Stomp has presented the “unsung heroes of American music” for well over a decade in blues, soul, country, rockabilly and garage rock. Stomp impresario Dr. Ike shares his memories of pioneering the raucous, eclectic gathering, and we visit with this year’s headliner, R&B guitar-woman— aka the Black Female Elvis—Barbara Lynn from Beaumont, TX. We’ll also hear from previous headliner, Arizona Twangmaster Duane Eddy. We’re spinning tracks from Stomp artists including Gary U.S. Bonds, Lazy Lester and Linda Gail Lewis.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, SHINE A LIGHT ON ME: PRISON MUSIC FROM ANGOLA, LOUISIANA & BEYOND  

Rock and Soul from Memphis to Muscle Shoals: Candi Staton, Sam Phillips and Barbara Sims  

Tune in and rock the blues with two guitar men who do it with great authority. First up is Arkansas wild man and original Sun Records rockabilly Sonny Burgess who tore it up, playing his hits "We Wanna Boogie," "Red-Headed Woman" and others well into his eighties, before passing away last month. And hear a live set from the late great New Orleans bluesman and human jukebox Snooks Eaglin, recorded in 2007 at his home base, the famous Rock 'N' Bowl nightclub, where one can do either of those, or both, at the same time.

For Labor Day weekend, we take a break from the grind with a sonic salute to the heroic “Factory Girl” and those all too familiar with the “Workin' Man Blues.” We explore the pains and joys of labor with tunes about coal miners, undertakers, chain gangs, and paydays. We hear a tribute to Cesar Chavez and the 1969 farm workers strike in Delano, CA. And we time travel with Lord Invader to 1940s Brooklyn to attend the West Indian Labor Day Carnival.

This week on American Routes, we’ll ride along with fiddler and singer Alison Krauss on 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 fronted by Alynda Segarra, whose roots are in the Bronx. Segarra tells of her own time traveling as a teenager and what has inspired her to reconnect with her Puerto Rican heritage. En route we’ll hear tunes from Chuck Berry, Bob Wills, Nina Simone and Tom Waits.  

The great Texas river city is a mix of Mexican, German, Anglo and African American cultures, among others. Home to the Texas Conjunto Festival and the International Accordion Festival, San Antonio is best known for Tex-Mex or Tejano music played by squeeze box masters like Flaco Jimenez, Narciso Martinez and Mingo Saldivar among many.  

Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy tells of the impact on his songs of growing up in the blue-collar town, Belleville, Illinois.  Music became his creative outlet in high school and lead to founding the seminal Americana band, Uncle Tupelo. We hear from Jeff in his Chicago studio "The Loft" about the emergence of Wilco and the place that making music has in his life, including work with Woody Guthrie’s lyrics and producing records with Mavis Staples. 

It's summertime, and the living is easy on American Routes, where we've got cool tunes from Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Beach Boys to help you beat that summer heat. We'll hear memories of Sea Breeze, NC, a historically Black resort community that was an early site of integration in the Jim Crow South... And visit with some surfers at Mission Beach, San Diego.  

Listen to American Routes with host Nick Spitzer every Friday at 12:00 noon on KRCB-FM Radio 91!

During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department started sending jazz musicians overseas with the tactical aim of using their hot licks to thaw relations with Eastern Bloc countries. Jazz great Dave Brubeck recalls how Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. “Ambassador Satch,” won international hearts and minds with his trumpet. Band member Arvell Shaw saw Armstrong literally disarm Russian guards in East Berlin. Meanwhile, fear of nuclear war with the Soviets infiltrated American popular consciousness resulting in gospel, bluegrass and pop odes to and protests against atomic weapons.

This Week on American Routes - The Folk Revival Revisited: Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Jim Kweskin, Jerry Garcia, Alan Lomax, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt and more! 

Guilty Pleasures:  Music We Love More Than We Can Say. We take a deep dive into the memory vaults to spin the tunes that we shamelessly love. From guilty pleasures, including a disco dance number, to confessional ballads like James Carr’s “Dark End of the Street” and songs of redemption ala Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” we shine a light on our heart’s true delights. Plus, we explore social protest anthems including Mavis Staples' "Long Walk to D.C.," Simon & Garfunkel's "Richard Cory," and a standout R & B version of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" sung by Shreveport's Toussaint McCall.

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