It’s been 5 years since American Routes first hit the airwaves, and we’re celebrating! Hour 1 highlights include well-wishes from listeners, anniversary songs, and great conversations over the years with Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, the late Jerry Garcia, Norah Jones, Dolly Parton and Harry Shearer (of The Simpsons). Devoted fans will be amused by a look at our retro selves, and new listeners can hear how this all started! Hour 2 is our 5th Anniversary concert at the House of Blues, with New Orleans greats Irma Thomas, Frogman Henry, Kermit Ruffins and Henry Butler, and special guests Shemekia Copeland and Keb’ Mo’.
The sound of rock continues to dominate the musical spirit of America. Loud and anthemic, many artists eventually come to and pass through rock ‘n’ roll from country, folk, R&B, even gospel. American Routes takes a look at three roots musicians who rock: Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna veteran Jorma Kaukonen talks about his recent acoustic work; Texas trio The Flatlanders (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely) strum a few tunes in the studio; and New Orleans’ own Lloyd Price shows how his R&B roots helped give birth to rock ‘n’ roll.
A year after his passing, American Routes remembers Alan Lomax, the great folklorist, musicologist and documentarian. While working mostly for the Library of Congress, Lomax made groundbreaking recordings with Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Jelly Roll Morton, Muddy Waters and countless others. Family and friends, contemporaries and musicians recall his many accomplishments. Lomax’s sometime collaborator Pete Seeger took a different route as a singer of folksongs. The great social activist, environmentalist, and banjoman, Pete Seeger speaks of his life in music and social justice—two things he’s brought together for over 60 years.
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.
Who better to supply an all-American 4th of July soundtrack than our humble citizen selves? This year, we’ll meet two soulful gentlemen who could only have come from the good ol’ USA. Smokey Robinson talks about his voice and his timeless Motown singles with the Miracles, as well as the songs he wrote and produced for others, like “My Guy” for Mary Wells and the Temptations’ “My Girl”. And meet Mr. Wiggles, the king of Richmond VA’s “Fatback Sound.” Also, craftsman Charles Gillam, who carves blues history out of Mississippi River driftwood. It’s a red, white and blues Independence Day… may the Fourth be with you!