Exploring the musical ties that bind, we spin platters from our favorite harmonizing pairs and family affairs. We map the careers of West Texas-troubadour Jimmie Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders and So-Cal rocker Dave Alvin of the Blasters and trace the events that led to their cosmic collaboration. And we follow the journey of funk singer Syl Johnson and blues guitarist Jimmy Johnson from Mississippi to Chicago, and the different paths the sibling rivals carved out in the Windy City’s electric soundscape. Plus, country duets and family bands. Soul sisters and blues brothers. Lovers, kindred spirits and lots others.
We hit the open road to hear tales of adventure and woe from honky-tonkers and hobos, train-hoppers and busking bohemians. En route we talk with Washington folk singer Brandi Carlile, who dropped out of high school to cut it as a touring musician, and New Orleans’ Meschiya Lake, about her journey from circus performer to jazz chanteuse. Driving on in search of mythic America, we hear the voices of its discontents: Woody Guthrie, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Wilco and Pops Staples. Plus, we “Ramble On” with Lucinda Williams before coming down with a case of “Travelin’ Blues” from Jimmie Rodgers. By planes, trains and automobiles, we journey across our country’s musical landscape with stories from the road.
We explore the sonic hues of the blues in jazz, R & B, country, Cajun and pop. We’ll hear blues inflections in the music of Gene Vincent and George Jones, Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell. Then we crash a blues house party at the National Folk Festival for music and conversation with British rocker Albert Lee, Piedmont harmonica master Phil Wiggins, St. Louis guitarist Marquise Knox, and Cajun accordionist Steve Riley. We’re looking toward blue skies and blue horizons on American Routes!
We hit the road and visit juke joints, dancehalls and folk festivals to get our fill of hot licks from blues and bluegrass musicians, oldtimers and newcomers alike. We talk shop with Mississippi Hill Country bluesman Cedric Burnside about playing music alongside his grandfather, R.L. Burnside, finding his voice and translating old school sounds for a new generation. Then we head to the Montana Folk Festival to hear the bluegrass bonafides of ShadowGrass and talk with the young Appalachian upstarts about balancing their tour schedule with junior high school. Plus, fife and drum music from Otha Turner & the Afrosippi Allstars, surrealist blues rock a la Captain Beefheart and old-time and rockabilly picking from Doc Watson.