American Routes

Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

American Routes is a two-hour weekly excursion into American music, spanning eras and genres—roots rock and soul, blues and country, jazz, gospel and beyond.

Spring Awakening: A Corona Global Companion

Apr 7, 2020
Ranna Zahra McSwain

It’s a Spring Awakening, and we’ve got songs about bunny hops, rockin’ robins, and fragrant flowers but also lonely hours, gospel prayers and post apocalyptic dreams. In hopes that the real and surreal can commingle with joy and hope in our Corona Global Companion for your consideration and pleasure, including music from Gillian Welch, Stevie Wonder, Bob Wills and Fats Waller.

American Routes Shortcuts: Alison Krauss

Apr 3, 2020
Alison Krauss
American Routes

Alison Krauss grew up Champaign, Illinois. She began competing in fiddle contests when she was just eight years old. At fourteen, Alison recorded an album of traditional tunes with her brother Vik on bass. She joined up with the band Union Station, formed by childhood friend, songwriter John Pennell. Over the past two decades, Krauss has won twenty-seven Grammys--more than any other living musician. I asked Alison about her early life in Illinois and introduction to music.



Of Highways and Home: Alison Krauss and Alynda Segarra

Mar 31, 2020

This week on American Routes, we’ll ride along with fiddler and singer Alison Krauss on her journey through bluegrass and country, from small-town Illinois all the way to Nashville. Then it’s Hurray for the Riff Raff, a New Orleans folk band fronted by Alynda Segarra, whose roots are in the Bronx. Segarra tells of her own time traveling as a teenager and what has inspired her to reconnect with her Puerto Rican heritage. En route we’ll hear tunes from Chuck Berry, Bob Wills, Nina Simone and Tom Waits.

American Routes Shortcuts: Bessie Smith

Mar 27, 2020
Bessie Smith
Carl Van Vechten, restored by Adam Cuerden

Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, was the first African American superstar, an artist that mingled regal dignity with sensuality. We’ll sample her recorded legacy, talk with critics and hear memories of her contemporaries from the Jazz Age of the 1920s.


Empress of the Blues: Bessie Smith

Mar 24, 2020
Bessie Smith
Carl Van Vechten, restored by Adam Cuerden

Bessie Smith was called the Empress of the Blues, but she was also the highest paid African American entertainer of her generation. We’ll explore the life and times of Bessie Smith from her early days performing on Chattanooga street corners and her travels on the TOBA circuit to her decade as a top selling recording artist. Then, a conversation with Annika Chambers, a 21st Century blues woman and classic Bessie Smith songs by Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Alberta Hunter. 

American Routes Shortcuts: Leyla McCalla

Mar 20, 2020
Leyla McCalla
American Routes

Cellist and folk singer Leyla McCalla was raised in New Jersey by Haitian immigrant parents. She picked up the cello as a young student, and after studying performance and chamber music at NYU, Leyla left New York for New Orleans and began busking and exploring cultural connections between Louisiana and Haiti, with Creole tunes, Haitian rhythms and instruments, adding Cajun fiddle melodies, traditional jazz banjo and folk songs from both regions. Now a mother of three, Leyla reflected on her mother and father. 



We peer into the minds of musical dreamers of the past and present, exploring dreams of love, immigration, and a more perfect union. Singer songmaker Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods speaks of the 60’s folk revival in Greenwich Village and his dreams realized in the anthemic 1967 song “Get Together.” Then, Haitian American cellist and singer Leyla McCalla describes her journey from New York to New Orleans, connecting the cultural histories she’d long dreamed of along the way.

American Routes Shortcut: the Doucet Brothers

Mar 13, 2020
Michael and David Doucet
American Routes

This is American Routes, down by the riverside, live at the New Orleans Jazz Market. Our guests this hour are the Doucet brothers. Fiddler Michael is a National Heritage Fellow, a person who years ago did fieldwork with the elder Cajun musicians. Brother David on guitar adds high-speed virtuoso flat picking. You may know them as founding members of the band Beausoleil. 



Mississippi: An Anthropocene River
Map by Harold N. Fisk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1944

The Mississippi River has produced great cultural icons in jazz, blues, gospel, rockabilly, roots rock and soul and many other music styles near its banks and levees. Join us for “Down by the Riverside” a live American Routes concert with artists from the cafe au lait portion of the river and its connected watershed of bayous and backswamps in South Louisiana, including Michael and David Doucet, retired captain of the Natchez steamboat, Clarke “Doc” Hawley and Dr. Michael White and band playing New Orleans traditional jazz, joined by singer Topsy Chapman. 

American Routes Shortcuts: Margo Price

Mar 6, 2020
Margo Price
Bobbi Rich

Margo Price brings Midwestern working class credentials to country music. From Aledo, Illinois, Margo followed her uncle Bobby Fisher’s footsteps as a Nashville songwriter. While working odd jobs, Margo formed the Pricetags, who joined her on the 2016 debut album, “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.” Price has always been outspoken about the rights of women and the working class, subjects she’s channeled into her music.