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The guitarist-singer Jimmie Rodgers has been called “The Father of Country Music,” “America’s Blue Yodeler,” and “The Singing Brakeman.” Born in Meridian, MS, in 1897, Rodgers recorded briefly between 1927 and 1933, but defined country music as “the white man’s blues” with a related legacy of crooning, jazz, Hawaiian guitar and eclectic vaudeville-style entertainment. On the 70th anniversary of his death, American Routes looks at the life and legacy of Jimmie Rodgers. We’ll speak with biographer Nolan Porterfield, and hear comments from country singer Merle Haggard and bluesman John Jackson, among others. Also, music about Rodgers’ favorite subject—trains—in many styles… blues, country, soul, roots, rock and more.


The family that plays together stays together, and this week on American Routes we have a couple of them. First up, it’s 12 and Shorty, better known as James and Troy Andrews, brothers and horn players with a long New Orleans musical lineage. Rockers and brothers Cody and Willy Braun, of Reckless Kelly, and their father Muzzie share their memories of being in a cowboy family band.


This American Routes examines new directions for traditional music. Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson talks about coming home to Mississippi from New York to embrace her blues and gospel roots and take them in a new direction. Guitarist Bill Frisell positions his style in a long line of groundbreaking jazz composers and performers. And a great music mix including Robert Johnson, Uncle Tupelo, Billie Holiday and more.


Explore the connection between the wail of the cantor and the slide of a blues note—where jazz and western swing meet the klezmorium. Legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler recalls working with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and more. Banjo player and author Henry Sapoznik talks about going from Old Time Country back to the music of his roots, klezmer. Plus jazz-inflected western swing, swinging klezmer and more.


This week feel the Pan-Latin vibe with guests Flaco Jimenez and Eddie Palmieri. San Antonio native and king of the conjunto accordion, Jimenez recalls his father’s influence on his playing. And NuYorican jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri talks about reshaping Latin bands with his La Perfecta group in the early 1960s. Plus, hear how Latin music influenced American roots rock, jazz and even Cajun music.