Have you ever sailed the Mississippi on a riverboat? Heard a calliope bounce notes off a barge? Caught the freight train boogie? This week on American Routes, we’re riding the rails and sailing sails with words and music dedicated to two old forms of transport. We’ll visit with Captain Doc Hawley, a calliope player on the “Natchez” in New Orleans to find out what it takes to make a boat sing. And a conversation with singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who knows a thing or two about trains. Plus music about rivers, railcars and riding around.
American Routes cruises the musical map of Detroit, catching the sights and sounds of the Motor City. From Hamtramck to Dearborn, we’ll meet the proud people who made the cars and played the bars. Jazz modernist Yusef Lateef tells of his time on the assembly line. Smokey Robinson talks about growing up with Motown’s future stars. We’ll learn how to construct a hit record from Motown studio insiders, then visit a raccoon hunters club, known for bluegrass jams. Plus rockabilly stars, dream cars and polka bands… all from Detroit.
When we asked Lyle Lovett why he didn’t stick with journalism, he said, “It’s hard to sing the newspaper.” From blues to country to Texas swing, Lyle and his large band can tell some good stories, and they’re not all about penguins. We’ll hear all about this (and more) when we sit down in conversation with Lyle. Howard Tate is a master of soulful singing, bringing his bluesy touch and deep meaning to such classics as “Get it While You Can” and “Ain’t Nobody Home.” We’ll talk about his life in Philadelphia’s gospel and soul scenes, and his path back to the stage today.
American Routes samples the best live music collaborations from the 2011 Jazz Fest season in New Orleans. Each year, music from the festival at the fairgrounds spills over into the streets and clubs of our city. We’ll camp out at Preservation Hall for an evening of jazz and country with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Nashville song man Buddy Miller, with special guest Robert Plant. Then we’ll catch the Hot 8 Brass Band and Mos Def at the Howlin’ Wolf across town. All this, plus more musical surprises.