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American Routes
Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.

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.

Latest Episodes
  • 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. He joined the ranks of his musical idol, Flaco Jiménez, and reconnected with the Texas tradition his father instilled. After Doug Sahm’s death in 1999, Max turned full attention to his own group, Los Texmaniacs. The band’s record Borders y Bailes won the Grammy for best Tejano album in 2010.
  • Evan Christopher began playing clarinet in junior high school in Long Beach, CA. His first introduction to New Orleans music was hearing Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens with Johnny Dodds and Artie Shaw on his dad’s records. Evan moved to New Orleans in his early 20s. Here he worked as a steamboat clarinetist by day and explored the music scene on Frenchmen Street by night. He went on to collaborate with Tom McDermott, Al Hirt, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Galactic, and others. His “Clarinet Road” led him from Socal to New Orleans, San Antonio, Paris, and he now resides in New York City. Evan told us how he came to understand the music of New Orleans.
  • Soul Queen Gladys Knight grew up in Atlanta with R & B, gospel, doo-wop and soul. At 79, she’s on her farewell tour. We caught up with Gladys Knight in the lobby of the Saenger Theater in New Orleans in 2000. Our conversation started out down home, where the music begins for her.
  • 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, and you can’t do a show about the blues without stopping by a juke joint, and I know a great one. It’s Teddy’s Juke Joint, right along Blues Highway 61 in Zachary, LA. It’s a small double shotgun house, at the end of a gravel road, lit up by Christmas lights all year round. Inside you’ll find good times and good blues music served up by Lloyd Johnson Jr., a well-dressed bear of a man in a red suit, sporting a large cowboy hat, and better known to the regulars as Teddy.
  • The following is an American Routes encore presentation featuring our interview with the Band’s Robbie Robertson, who passed away on August 9th, at age 80. The Band, and Robertson in particular, were always on the search for “authentic” American music, and around this time they began to incorporate the sounds of New Orleans into their eclectic mix. Songwriter and guitarist Robbie Robertson picks up the story.
  • Who was Harry Smith? The short answer about the 20th century polymath and hustler might be divined in his legendary Anthology of American Folk Music from 1952, an LP collection of mostly Southern US folk music on 78rpm records. The Anthology established a cult of listening and influenced popular and folk revival artists from John Sebastian and the New Lost City Ramblers to rockers like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Beck. In addition to music recording and wide ranging research into tribal and other cultures, Harry Smith was a painter on canvas and on film. He was a profound thinker and worker in the American vernacular.
  • Dr. Michael White is the beloved New Orleans clarinetist leading the Original Liberty Jazz Band. He's also a composer, musicologist, jazz historian, and professor at Xavier University. He's a leading authority and culture bearer of traditional jazz. He's performed globally, is heard on over 50 recordings, received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Although Michael has ancestors in traditional jazz, he started in classical music. He later joined the famed St. Augustine High School Marching 100, but it wasn't until his late teens that Michael first heard New Orleans jazz played live at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. He went on to play with Ernest “Doc” Paulin’s brass band, 1975, at a church parade, and in social club parades and jazz funerals. Then, with Danny Barker's Fairview Baptist Church marching band. He later worked with the Young Tuxedo Brass to Wynton Marsalis's band, among many. We'll hear some of that music and more from Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band.
  • The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band has been playing together since 1977. The band includes husband and wife Marc and Ann Savoy, on accordion and guitar respectively, and Michael Doucet of Beausoleil on fiddle. The trio has presented traditional Cajun music at Louisiana dance halls, major music festivals, and presidential inaugurations. They recently played a Cajun dance party in New Orleans’ French Market for the National Treasures Tour of Culture Bearers in National Parks. I sat down back home with the Savoys and Michael Doucet to talk about the band and their relationship as friends, family, and musicians. First, I asked Marc Savoy about his choice to continue family traditions of making and playing accordions.
  • This is American Routes live in the studio with a few friends. The Stooges Brass Band from New Orleans started as teenagers in 1996 after bandleader Walter "Whoadie" Ramsey heard a performance by Rebirth Brass Band. Walter combined members of two rival high school bands, and they later added hip-hop, funk, and R&B into the setup. The Stooges grew up to play local clubs and jazz second line parades. They went global with videos with hip-hop producer Mannie Fresh. Back home they won local Red Bull Street Kings competitions twice since 2010. Kicking it off: The Stooges on American Routes.