American Routes

Saturdays 9-11 p.m.
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

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.

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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.

Rockin’ Behind the Iron Curtain: To Russia With Love

Jul 11, 2017

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.

The Folk Revival Revisited

Jul 3, 2017

The American folk music revival that grew from the Post-WWII era to the Sixties was about more than just music: it wrapped in political activism, romantic visions of the self and the “folk,” group “sing-a-longs,” “hootenannies” and careers of singer-songwriters. We interview folk heroine Judy Collins about her move from traditional British folk songs to the new songs and sounds in Greenwich Village. Jug bandleader Jim Kweskin talks about his love of communal living.

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 AllanT.K. Hulin, and G.G.

Billie Holiday: Ladies Sing the Blues & Beyond

Jun 20, 2017

We follow Billie Holiday from her beginnings through a complex life of troubles and musical triumphs, her compelling "autumn" voice and untimely passing at age 44. Biographers John Szwed and Robert O'Meally discuss Lady Day's style and significance, while Cassandra Wilson describes and sings her approach to the Billie Holiday oeuvre. Singer Catherine Russell describes reaching back to recreate classic blues and jazz. From our archives we hear Nina Simone and Bonnie Raitt praising their blues heroines in story and song.

Trombone Shorty… Casts a Long Shadow

Jun 13, 2017

This week on American Routes, we're celebrating the life and music of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Schooled in the sounds of his family and New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood, Shorty has been a musician since the age of four.

Guilty Pleasures: Music We Love More Than We Can Say

Jun 6, 2017

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 & Garfunkle's "Richard Cory," and a standout R & B version of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" sung by Shreveport's Toussaint McCall.

Jesse Winchester, Wayne & Jayne Henderson

May 30, 2017

We’ll remember the late singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester, through his music and his own words. Then a visit to Rugby, VA for a close listen into sustainable guitars and ukuleles, made by Jayne and Wayne Henderson, of Henderson Guitars.

Memorial Day with the NEA National Heritage Fellows

May 23, 2017

American Routes celebrates Memorial Day weekend with a sonic feast from National Endowment for the Arts’ Heritage Fellows--recipients of America's most prestigious award in folk & traditional arts. We'll hear music and conversation from past Fellows: bluegrass picker Del McCoury, rockabilly Wanda Jackson, sacred steel guitarists, the Campbell Brothers, and late blues singer Koko Taylor. The 2016 Fellows included: Mardi Gras Indian Chief Monk Boudreaux, Irish accordionist Billy McComiskey and Mexican-American singer Artemio Posadas.

Los Angeles: Soundtrack for the Angels

May 16, 2017

In this special program, American Routes' host Nick Spitzer uncovers the music and cultural traditions of Los Angeles: from Hollywood to neighborhood. Join Nick as he travels across the City of Angels to hear from L.A. legends -- including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and songwriter Randy Newman -- and explores musical cultures with Cambodian-born rapper PraCh Ly in Long Beach, Louisiana Creole zydeco accordionist T-Lou in South Central, and East L.A.'s Ersi Arvizu.

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