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Arts & Culture

  • Cedric Watson grew up near Houston. His family’s Louisiana roots inspired him to move to Lafayette to learn Creole French. Cedric is a fine accordionist and fiddler, singer and song maker, a freethinking philosopher of life and music. He and the band will play La-La, zydeco, blues and soul. Allons avec Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole.
  • Aurora Nealand was recently praised as one of the top ten soprano saxophonists in America by Downbeat Magazine. She grew up in an eccentric family on the California coast and then Colorado, listening to Stravinsky, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Joan Baez and the Pixies. Her mom was a gardener who played classical piano, her dad an archivist who went to rock band practice between jobs. She received musical training at Oberlin College and Jacques Lecoq School of Physical Theatre in Paris, all before embarking on a bike trip across the US to chronicle the dreams of rural America. In 2004 Aurora ended up in New Orleans, where she learned to play traditional jazz in the streets. Now she leads her band, the Royal Roses, and sometimes has the persona of Rory Danger. Aurora attributes the interest in a broad range of styles to her travels and nontraditional upbringing.
  • This is American Routes live for Labor Day weekend with some favorite performances from our series of concerts created with the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. To kick it off, we asked the Pine Leaf Boys to make a big journey across the Atchafalaya swamp from Lafayette and their South Louisiana Cajun prairie homeland down the Mississippi River to New Orleans to play on a live stream as the pandemic closed the dancehalls of French Louisiana. It’s “Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step” on American Routes.
  • This is American Routes with a live session of serious guitar slingers. Our revered guitar agitators of today are onstage in performance and conversation, recorded live at the National Folk Festival in Salisbury, MD 2019. The players include Mississippi blues guitarist Eddie Cotton, Dieselbilly electric guitarist Bill Kirchen, Nashville Dobro übermensch Jerry Douglas, and house painter and guitar picker Steve Lewis. Bill Kirchen plays a style of guitar music he calls “Dieselbilly,” inspired by the sound and soundtrack image of 18-wheelers and truckers tastes on the road. He’s also known from his time as a Lost Planet Airman with Commander Cody. I asked Bill how he got into country music.
  • This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we bask in the summer heat and listen to our favorite versions of the George Gershwin classic, “Summertime,” from the 1934 opera Porgy and Bess.
  • The Historic New Orleans Collection spotlights civil rights activist Jean Thompson.
  • This summer, more than ever, the challenge is to be and stay cool. So we’re all about songs and sounds as ways to chill out. We asked musicians, critics and producers just what it means to be cool. Chicago pianist Ramsey Lewis had a huge hit with a song about cool people, “The ‘In’ Crowd," back in 1965. He's also known for adapting tunes like "A Hard Day's Night” and "Dancing in the Street" into hip jazz instrumentals. Now also a radio host, Ramsey Lewis told us he made his own brand of jazz by blending the blues he heard on the Chicago streets with gospel music from home.