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.

Remake the World: Jimmy Cliff & Arturo O’Farrill

Jul 7, 2020

We travel to Jamaica and Cuba, with connections in NY and New Orleans. Singer Jimmy Cliff is the global reggae star whose career was launched a half century ago by the iconic film and sound track, The Harder They Come. We talk with him about his start in the early days of Jamaican recorded music and his work to make the world a better place for everyone. Then Bandleader and pianist Arturo O’Farrill shares his family heritage in Afro-Latin jazz and a recent project playing music of all kinds on the US side of the Mexican border at the Fandango at the Wall.

American Roots Fourth of July Concert on the National Mall July 4, 1993
National Council for the Traditional Arts

For the 4th of July, we've been digging in the archives for a series of live concerts between 1993-2001 in front of a million people annually on the National Mall from the Washington Monument to the White House fence, and millions more on public radio nationwide. It was the roots of American Routes. 



4th of July on the Mall
Photo courtesy National Council for the Traditional Arts, July 4, 1993

It's Fourth of July, and we dig into the archives for the roots of American Routes. It all began with a series of Independence Day concerts held annually at the Washington Monument before the fireworks show on the National Mall and featured the best of American vernacular musical culture. We’ll sample from nearly a decades worth of concerts, highlighting spectacular stage performances by the Staple Singers, Tito Puente, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, New Orleans Tuxedo Brass and more. It's Musical Stars & Cultural Stripes: American Roots Independence Day Revisited.

American Routes Shortcuts: Narvel Felts

Jun 26, 2020
Narvel Felts
American Routes

Singer and guitarist Narvel Felts had 42 singles on the Country Billboard charts in the 1970s and ‘80s, but his roots are in Rockabilly. As a teenager in the 1950s, he had a radio show in Missouri. Later Narvel navigated the early rock and roll music industry, recording at Sun Records, Mercury, and even at Nashville’s famed RCA Victor Studio B. Born in 1938 near Keiser, Arkansas, Narvel Felts grew up the son of sharecroppers, who later moved to Missouri.

The Rolling Stones have been around for over five decades and touring almost as long. This week we listen back to Stones songs about working people, the band’s sources in blues, country and gospel, and speak with two of their sidemen who share their tales of working with the group. Pianist and Rolling Stones music director, Chuck Leavell got a fateful call to join the band in 1982 while working on his family’s Georgia tree plantation, but before that he played with the Allman Brothers.