Do the words make the song or the notes? What does it take to tell a good tale in music or about music? We asked these questions to a few writers of both songs and stories. Singer-songwriter and memoirist Rosanne Cash sits down before a live audience to tell us about her authorial journey, then we chat with novelist Cyril Vetter on translating a musician’s life into fiction. And New Orleans bluesman Little Freddie King spins a few tall tales from the juke joint.
Working class, self-styled and always opinionated, the late King of Bluegrass Jimmy Martin talks guitar-picking, hunting dogs and the Opry. And singer of songs, Percy Sledge recalls going from hospital orderly to Atlantic Records soul singer with “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
As the muddy Mississippi winds its way past us in New Orleans, we’re reminded of the power and place of these waterways in American culture. First, we seek the source of the mighty river at the headwaters in Minnesota. Then listen to stories of steamboat captains, riverboats and rural fisherman. And learn about New Orleans own relation to the river with Tulane professor Richard Campanella. Plus river tales from Captain Doc Hawley, Aaron Neville and Al Green.
American Routes celebrates Mother’s Day with Marty Stuart and his mom, Hilda. We’ll talk about their shared love of photography and a certain girl singer, Connie Smith. Then we’ll hear stories about mothers from Fontella Bass, Sonny Rollins, Bo Diddley, and Geno Delafose, among others. Plus songs from blues to bluegrass about and for dear old mom.
We’re bringing the blues from the clubs to the church this week on American Routes. The Campbell Brothers, from Rochester, NY, are masters of sacred steel. With both pedal and lap steel guitars, they summon the spirit in voice and sound. We’ll talk about growing up in the church and playing gospel blues on the guitar. Then, New Orleans bluesman Walter “Wolfman” Washington stops by the American Routes studio for a conversation about his life in the music and in the clubs around town.