american routes shortcuts

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.



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.


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. 



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. 



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. 



American Routes Shortcuts: Leap Day

Feb 28, 2020
Sun Ra
American Routes

This week on American Routes, it’s a rare Leap Year show with Guilty Pleasures and Forgotten Treasures. As the 29th of February rolls around we take stock of our circles round the sun, just for cosmic fun, not so much to analyze but to imagine our years in space and time. We’ll have music from fellow travelers: The Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, King Pleasure, and Sun Ra.


American Routes: Cherice Harrison-Nelson

Feb 21, 2020
Cherice Harrison-Nelson
American Routes

Cherice Harrison-Nelson grew up in a high-minded family of readers. Her mother Herreast ran nursery schools. Her father Donald Harrison was a veteran and postal worker, interested in philosophy and art. He grew up in the Mardi Gras Indian tradition of honoring Native American culture by local African American carnival tribes.  The Harrisons have long been concerned about social justice.

American Routes Shortcuts: Michael Cuscuna

Feb 14, 2020
Michael Cuscuna
American Routes

Our guest knows something of the mystical appeal of records; he's been a deejay in underground radio and a record producer in blues, jazz, and pop.  For many years Michael Cuscuna has dug deep in the vaults of record companies like Blue Note and Atlantic to put out specially designed and remastered collections of great jazz.  In 1982, he teamed up with Charlie Lourie to found Mosaic Records, which is part of the Blue Note Label Group.  Mosaic continues to be a front-runner in reissues, specializing in limited edition, mail-order-box sets.  Michael Cuscuna told us how he got the idea to s

American Routes Shortcuts: Eddie Cotton Jr.

Feb 7, 2020
Eddie Cotton Jr.
American Routes

Eddie Cotton Jr. grew up in the Church of God in Christ in Clinton, Mississippi near Jackson. He heard guitar-playing deacons and preachers. His father was a preacher who bought Eddie his first guitar when he was six with plans for him to play for the congregation. After leading the church band, Eddie went on to study music theory at Jackson State University, where he realized that gospel and blues shared the same form, and developed a sound that incorporated blues, gospel, and soul. He continued playing music in church, but pursued a career in blues, opening for Ike Turner and B.B.

American Routes Shortcuts: Guilty Pleasures

Jan 31, 2020
Guilty Pleasures
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, the tables are turned as host Nick Spitzer appears as a guest on his own show, confessing his musical guilty pleasures to producer Betsy Shepherd and telling stories through his favorite songs.

Betsy Shepherd: When most people say guilty pleasures they’re referring to something they’re ashamed of, as in lowbrow entertainment. What do you mean by guilty pleasures?

Nick Spitzer: Well, there are a lot of things that I love musically out there in the world, but that doesn’t mean I play them on American Routes.