American Routes

Sundays from 6pm-8pm

American Routes is a weekly two-hour public radio program produced in New Orleans, presenting a broad range of American music — blues and jazz, gospel and soul, old-time country and rockabilly, Cajun and zydeco, Tejano and Latin, roots rock and pop, avant-garde and classical. Now in our 15th year on the air, American Routes explores the shared musical and cultural threads in these American styles and genres of music — and how they are distinguished.

The program also presents documentary features and artist interviews. Our conversations include Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, B.B. King, Dr. John, Dave Brubeck, Abbey Lincoln, Elvis Costello, Ray Charles, Randy Newman, McCoy Tyner, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Thomas, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others. Join us as we ride legendary trains, or visit street parades, instrument-makers, roadside attractions and juke joints, and meet tap dancers, fishermen, fortunetellers and more.

The songs and stories on American Routes describe both the community origins of our music, musicians and cultures — the “roots”— and the many directions they take over time — the “routes.”

Ways to Connect

American Routes Live for Labor Day Weekend

Aug 12, 2020

In light of response to the historic American Routes Live Independence Day concert from the National Mall on July 4th weekend, we are presenting American Routes Live for Labor Day Weekend. The two-hour special is available to all PRX stations free of charge. (The 345 stations that carry American Routes weekly don’t need to subscribe to this special.)  American Routes Live for Labor Day Weekend features great recordings of live performances from the beloved French Quarter Festival in New Orleans. It's all part of our new focus on great, live original performance recordings.

Songs of Rivers and Mountains: Joan Shelley & Jeff Little

Aug 11, 2020

This week we visit with two Southern crafters of music and song. Kentucky native and guitarist Joan Shelley takes her ethereal songwriting and voicing of life’s emotional flow from observations on the banks of the Ohio River near Louisville. Then, the virtuosic Blue Ridge pianist Jeff Little shares his stories of growing up playing alongside the legendary flat-pick guitarist Doc Watson at the family’s music store in Boone, North Carolina. It led to a singular career of playing high speed fiddle tunes on the piano.

We go live in concert and conversation with two New Orleans artists who bring their family heritages forward into modern settings. Singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla has called New Orleans home for many years, but her family ties are to Haiti. She draws from her creole roots for inspiration, as well as from the poetry of Langston Hughes. Then, modernist jazz saxophonist Big Chief Donald Harrison, whose musical journey includes time in New York with Art Blakey’s band, talks about “Afro-New Orleans Culture” and demonstrates how to build a James Brown sound in jazz.

While I’m Living: Tanya Tucker & Warren Storm

Jul 28, 2020

Singer Tanya Tucker got her start as a very young singer in Nashville. At age 13, she had her first hit with “Delta Dawn.” Since then, she’s seen a lot of the world of Country Music but still kept her landmark sound. We’ll talk about her recent Grammy-winning record and her love of cutting horses in the Desert West. Then the King of Swamp Pop, Warren Storm brings us back to Louisiana where he’s taking the world by storm with a new recording of classic songs. 

New Orleans’ own Basin Street Records is a homegrown record label featuring superstars of the local sound like the Rebirth Brass Band, Davell Crawford, Jason Marsalis and Kermit Ruffins. The label got its start with a live recording of Kermit’s band at the Uptown club Tipitina’s in 1997. Now, over two decades later and several Grammy Awards under its belt, Basin Street Records still holds true to the sounds of New Orleans. We talk with Basin Street founder Mark Samuels about the label’s history.