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.

American Routes Shortcuts: Annika Chambers

Sep 25, 2020
Annika Chambers
American Routes

Houston Texan Annika Chambers is a rare old school blues and soul singer in her early 30s.  During two tours of duty in the U.S. Army, including Iraq, Chambers started to reach a wider public when a colonel heard her singing gospel and asked her to do the National Anthem. She then brought her big voice to the blues playing Army base shows and finally debuting in 2015 with the CD Making My Mark. We caught up with Annika the morning after a triumphant late night show in Butte Montana 2018.

Empress of the Blues: Bessie Smith

Sep 22, 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: Delfeayo Marsalis

Sep 18, 2020
Delfeayo Marsalis
American Routes

This is American Routes, I’m Nick Spitzer, with our program devoted to the musical legacy of the late jazz pianist, composer, teacher and patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. and his late wife Dolores. Four of their six sons play music. Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis was the one also enlisted to record his brothers. He interned with Allen Toussaint at Sea Saint Studios, producing albums by Terrance Blanchard, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his family. Delfeayo wrote a children’s work for the Dallas Opera in the ‘90s.

There is no more recognizable family name in jazz from New Orleans and beyond than: Marsalis. We’re paying tribute to the late pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. who passed of Covid-19 in April 2020, and to his musical sons Branford (saxophone), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums and vibraphone). The conversation ranges from coming of age in a family of musicians, with expectations of performing at the highest level, to the interplay of traditional and modern jazz in New Orleans.

American Routes Shortcuts: Max Baca

Sep 11, 2020
Max Baca
American Routes

Max Baca grew up in New Mexico, playing in his dad’s band from age eight. After mastering bass and accordion, he picked up the bajo sexto, a Mexican twelve-string instrument featured in Tejano music. Max Baca Sr. took regular trips to Texas to introduce his sons to the conjunto scene, pioneered by his favorite accordion player, Narciso Martínez. Brothers Max Jr. and Jimmy channeled the San Antonio sound in forming their own band, Los Hermanos Baca. The Bacas were playing cantinas around New Mexico when Max got the call inviting him to tour with the Texas Tornados.