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American Routes offers a sequel to our popular “Words and Music” show, paying special attention to great lyricists and story songs, as well as figures who’ve blurred the lines between literature and music. One of those is Steve Earle. When he isn’t busy stirring up the alt-country world with newsworthy albums like his latest “Jerusalem,” Earle spends time in Ireland writing short stories and haikus. We’ll also speak with African-American songwriter, poet, and radio host Oscar Brown Jr., and hear the potent and playful words of Mose Allison, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, and the story behind that most American phrase: “Doo Wah Diddy.”


As folks head home for Thanksgiving, American Routes presents great families in music. A visit with mountain guitarist Doc Watson and his grandson Richard, Native American family group the Black Lodge Singers, and the Marsalis brothers pay tribute to their father, New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis. Plus, rhythm & blues from Rufus and Carla Thomas, and amazing sibling harmonies from the Everly Brothers. To close, take a walk in the Vermont woods with Nick’s brother Paul—a noted ornithologist—to hear the songs of birds.


What comes to mind when you hear the word Diva? We’ll explore the meaning – and the sound – of that feminine term through our music mix, and through interviews with some high-minded women who give the word a good name: Bonnie Raitt, Abbey Lincoln and young chanteuse Norah Jones. Plus songs with men and women weighing in on the topic from Louis Jordan, Memphis Minnie, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and more.


Explore the musical territory of the Texas-Louisiana border: It’s a fertile frontier where country, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, jazz, blues and boogie merge into one another. American Routes visits the flashy zydeco accordion man Nathan Williams; Shreveport, Louisiana singer Dale Hawkins tells stories of his early rockabilly hit “Suzy Q”; and 90-year-old jazz pianist/songstress Nellie Lutcher talks about growing up in southwest Louisiana, then playing music in the other LA – Los Angeles.