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

Deep in the heart of Texas, we visit with western swing trio the Hot Club of Cowtown, who started out in the bright lights of New York City and made a way to becoming a local favorite in Austin, Texas. We talk about hot clubs, 78 record collectors and hear songs about milk cows from some of the band's favorite musicians. Then the Bay Area’s Los Cenzontles celebrate their Mexican American roots through teaching and performance, and collaborate with artists like Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. It’s milk cows and mockingbirds on American Routes.

Empress of the Blues: Bessie Smith

Sep 22, 2020
Bessie Smith
Carl Van Vechten, restored by Adam Cuerden

Bessie Smith was called the Empress of the Blues, but she was also the highest paid African American entertainer of her generation. We’ll explore the life and times of Bessie Smith from her early days performing on Chattanooga street corners and her travels on the TOBA circuit to her decade as a top selling recording artist. Then, a conversation with Annika Chambers, a 21st Century blues woman and classic Bessie Smith songs by Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Alberta Hunter. 

There is no more recognizable family name in jazz from New Orleans and beyond than: Marsalis. We’re paying tribute to the late pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. who passed of Covid-19 in April 2020, and to his musical sons Branford (saxophone), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums and vibraphone). The conversation ranges from coming of age in a family of musicians, with expectations of performing at the highest level, to the interplay of traditional and modern jazz in New Orleans.

San Antonio Sounds

Sep 8, 2020

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. We'll speak with Flaco, who in collaborations with Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder, and Los Super Seven, has carried the music worldwide.

This Labor Day weekend, we’re rockin’ from the French Quarter Festival: a free, homegrown, four-day annual event featuring a vast array of local music presented on stages throughout the city’s oldest neighborhood. We’ll hear from trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, Creole banjo man Don Vappie, zydeco accordionist Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and his Sunspots, the all-female Original Pinettes Brass Band, Latin rockers the Iguanas, and trombonist Corey Henry’s Tremé Funket. Join us for music to chill by for the working women and men of our United States.

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