It’s Carnival time, and we’re hitting the streets for feasting and toasting, dancing and prancing, masking and merriment. We’ll visit with Maroon Queen Cherice “Reesie” Harrison-Nelson of the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indian tribe, as she sews this year’s suit. Then we’ll chat with Cha Wa, who combine funk and feathers to create their Mardi Gras Indian-infused New Orleans brass band sound and style. Plus Mardi Gras music from the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, West Africa and Brazil, and right here in New Orleans.
We’re taking a trip to Tinseltown to explore the music that brings movies to life. We’ll hear from trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, who worked on soundtracks for almost all of Spike Lee’s films, including 2018’s Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman. Then, we delve into the life and music of pianist Don Shirley in Green Book, and revisit a jaunty conversation with the Coen Brothers about the songs featured in their offbeat films, such as The Big Lebowski, True Grit, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Plus, music from Pulp Fiction, Cadillac Records, The Big Easy, and Baby Driver. So please, silence your cell phones, and set your radio for “picture” on American Routes.
We trace stardom back to its source, traversing the roots and routes that led small town musicians to national fame. Pop icon Boz Scaggs and the late Cajun honky-tonk man Jimmy C. Newman took very different paths to the stage but carried with them the sounds they grew up hearing. Boz Scaggs achieved mainstream success with his own platinum records as well as his work with Steve Miller and Duane Allman. We talk to him about his 6+ years performing on the road and how he came into his own by reconnecting with the blues he heard as a kid in “Nowhere, Texas.” Then, we remember the late Jimmy C. Newman, who took the sounds of French Louisiana to the Grand Ole Opry and put Cajun music and culture on the map. Son Gary Newman, producer Joel Savoy and musician Kelli Jones tell of his legacy and their tribute album, Farewell, Alligator Man. Plus, we trace Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” back to its Cajun origins, served up with tunes from Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and Professor Longhair.
We travel from Mississippi juke joints to the streets of the French Quarter to hear from those who record and perform music. Folklorist Bill Ferris recounts his experience documenting blues, gospel, fife & drum music and folk arts in the Mississippi delta and hill country. Ferris recently compiled his recordings in the Voices of Mississippi boxed set. Then, New Orleans’ queen of the clarinet Doreen Ketchens serenades us from her post at Royal and St. Peters Street. Doreen tells how the clarinet brought her from the family’s sweet shop in Treme to a global stage. Plus, hot takes from Hot Tuna, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lavern Baker and Marvin Gaye.