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About American Routes

American Routes, produced in New Orleans, presents 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.

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.”

Nick SpitzerNick Spitzer is a scholar, docu- mentary producer, and program host known for his informed and witty style in presenting American cultures and communities to audiences from Carnegie Hall to the National Mall, from American Public Media to PBS.

Currently the Zemurray Professor of Folklore and Cultural Conservation at the University of New Orleans' College of Urban and Public Affairs, Spitzer is known to public radio audiences nationwide for his award-winning Folk Masters series from Wolf Trap, and cultural features on All Things Considered.

American Routes is produced WWNO in New Orleans and is distributed by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Support this program directly with a donation to American Routes.


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American RoutesAmerican Routes with Nick Spitzer airs
Saturday from 1-3 pm, May-Dec.

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Audio archive and program playlists

 Recent American Routes programs
Follow the "read more" link on each episode for archive audio/playlists
Apr 15, 2014 -

Easter weekend is a time for reflection and family, and our guests certainly fit the bill. Donald Harrison, Jr. is a saxophone player and New Orleans native now based in New York. Harrison’s ties to New Orleans run deep, musically and culturally. His work has long echoed strains of Mardi Gras Indian chants and street beats – not surprisingly as his late father was Big Chief of the Guardians of the Flame tribe, a position Donald Jr. has since assumed. Wendell and Sherman Holmes, plus longtime friend Popsy Dixon make up the Holmes Brothers, a vocal group best known for putting their personal stamp on blues, gospel, country, pop and more. The brothers join us to talk about the transition from Christ Church, Virginia to New York and back again to home and family. read more.


Apr 08, 2014 -

Saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins has been igniting the jazz scene ever since he was a kid in the 1940s, hanging out with his mentor Thelonious Monk. We’ll talk with the jazz master about his work with Miles and Monk among others, and his current improvisatory explorations. Then, we’ll visit with New Orleans’ own jazz legend, Bob French, leader of the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, to learn the finer points of keeping time in the Crescent City. read more.


Apr 01, 2014 -

We’re sitting down this week with two bands who make their hometowns proud. The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, from Akron, Ohio, have roots in the blues and rock but construct a sound all their own. We chat with them backstage at a performance in the Crescent City. Then New Orleans brass band innovators the Soul Rebels talk about bringing the sounds of the streets to clubs around the world. read more.


Mar 25, 2014 -

The Houston-born singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell talks about growing up on the rough side of town with the ghost of Hank Williams as a “family member,” as well writing songs for his recent duet partner Emmylou Harris. He also wrote for many of the country heavy weights from Jerry Reed to Guy Clark and Bob Seeger, and was also the antagonist in Rosanne Cash’s signature tune “Seven Year Ache.” Then we’ll sit down live in a rare visit to Nashville (!) with the Crescent City’s Nite Tripper himself Dr. John, who reminisces about and demonstrates his early days at the piano, and on a music industry, “spying mission” that could only happen in New Orleans. read more.


Mar 18, 2014 -

Follow American Routes this week to the City of Brotherly Love, as we hang out on the musical street corners with some of Philadelphia’s finest, including bobby-soxer idol Bobby Rydell, hip hop drummer and city champion ?uestlove of the Roots, and the city’s mayor, Michael Nutter, who can also claim fame as a disco DJ. We’ll visit a famous operatic cafe and sit in with a neighborhood jazz organ trio. Plus catch a choir rehearsal at one of the city’s historic churches and a conversation with a mother-daughter klezmer duo. And musical postcards from artists who call Philly their hometown. read more.


Mar 11, 2014 -

A conversation with a man of many talents: songwriter, actor, boxer, military man, among many titles, Kris Kristofferson, reflecting on his life in music, his songwriting craft, and the nature of gratitude for his life’s adventures, as expressed in his recent album, Feeling Mortal. read more.


Mar 04, 2014 -

Do the words make the song or the notes? What does it take to tell a good tale in music or about music? We put those questions to a few writers of both songs and stories. Singer-songwriter and memoirist Rosanne Cash sits down before a live audience to tell us about her authorial journey, then we chat with novelist Cyril Vetter on translating a musician’s life into fiction. And New Orleans bluesman Little Freddie King spins a few tall tales from the juke joint. read more.


Feb 25, 2014 -

Come meet us at the club as we jump into two distinct American musics: go-go and zydeco. From the Nation’s Capital, we’ll visit with the “Godfather of Go-Go,“ÂÂ� funk and jazz guitarist Chuck Brown, who’ll explain the finer points of jamming and showing the audience some love. Then we’re back in Louisiana getting down to the Creole sounds of zydeco with the Creole cowboy Jeffery Broussard, whose fiddle and accordion playing brings the music back its source. The son of the late accordion legend Delton Broussard, Jeffery knows the deep roots of d’vrais zarico (real zydeco), but also the appeal of tradition in a modern sound. read more.


Feb 18, 2014 -

For this special American Routes program, we follow the lives of two giants of jazz: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. From their humble North Carolina beginnings to their triumphs on the world stage, we’ll trace their individual and inspired paths to creativity. And we’ll visit with the musicians who played with the greats, including McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders, and the next generation, TS Monk and Ravi Coltrane. read more.


Feb 11, 2014 -

Music made by couples, families and siblings often has a special quality. The same is true of people who have a musical attraction to one another: Lennon and McCartney, or Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Country traditionalist and mandolin player Marty Stuart was 12 years old when he met country chanteuse Connie Smith at a road show in his native Mississippi. Decades later Marty and Connie were married. They talk about their spring-fall relationship and making music together as “old souls.” We’ll talk to Joan Baez about writing for Bob Dylan and her singing his songs. Plus the Black Keys tell us how they teamed up, as did real brothers Trombone Shorty and James Andrews. We’ll also hear from the Cajun married duo of Marc and Ann Savoy. read more.

more American Routes from APM